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Monday: An Empowered Church — 21 Comments

  1. When it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit, some of us get quite verbose. A quick look along the shelves of the local Adventist Book Centre show a whole line of books about the topic. I have to admit that I have not read many of them. I am not saying that we should not read them, but we should not confuse reading with action.

    I am probably jumping the gun here but I want to refer to the Pentecost event recorded in Acts:

    2 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

    There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

    Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
    Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
    Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
    Even Cretans and Arabs!

    “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” Acts 2:1-11 MSG

    The immediate, observable effect of the presence of the Holy Spirit on the disciples was their ability to cut through the barriers of communication to present the Gospel to others in their own language.

    Think about that in modern terms. The biggest barrier to spreading the Gospel now is that we express it in a language that few people understand. We have a whole vocabulary of words and phrases which are meaningless to the unchurched to whom we are commissioned to preach. The Holy Spirit broke down a communication barrier for the early church, and it is quite possible that barrier is still the issue today.

    Most readers of this forum would have difficulty reading one of my academic treatises on computer transaction mechanisms. You would be familiar with most of the words in my documents but the ideas would be foreign to you. Just because I use English as my language does not make it easy for you to understand the ideas that I express. I am aware of that, and when I try and explain computer transaction systems to those who do not know the language I use an entirely different vocabulary.

    Likewise, is it possible that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us a whole new vocabulary so that we can communicate the Gospel in a way that can be understood by unchurched folk.

  2. Good point Maurice, could you give us some examples of what this new vocabulary would be like. How do you tell your unchurched friends about Jesus? I find it difficult to speak to those who have not expressed any interest in what I believe.

    • I have used this illustration before but it is pertinent to this discussion. My PhD supervisor asked me why I go to church on Saturday. As an unchurched person, it was not going to be appropriate to quote Bible texts to him, nor did I want to get involved in the issue of papacy changes because that would have been completely misunderstood. I mentioned that we believe the Bible and the Bible frequently refers to the importance of a day of rest. Then I pointed out how much the Sabbath meant to me and how much I enjoyed it. At the time we used to have our research meetings on Friday afternoon. They were often quite challenging meetings as we thrashed around about the arguments and ideas we were working on. I told him that I would be going home after our meeting and would 24 hours of complete rest before I had to think about our research again. He understood that. I did not have to use any "Biblical language", just expressions that he understood.

      Some will ask why I didn't say "this and that", the stuff we usually say about the Sabbath. My answer is that it was language that he would never understand. We have to start with what can be understood. ...and we need to be patient!

      • Maurice - Going out in the market place to proclaim the Word of God and preach the Gospel is not the same as talking with an individual about the reason why one observes the Sabbath whiles, at the same time, trying not to offend his sensitivities.
        Though, be assured, in every circumstance we find ourselves in, the Holy Spirit will guide our words - Matt.10:19; Mark13:11; Luke12:11,12. Jesus said this!

        If the Holy Spirit will find the right words to use in a hostile setting, He will also give them to us in a friendly setting.
        I am sure that the preachers from the times of the 'Early Rain', those who spoke to multitudes about 'fire and brimstone' could also be talking quitely with an individual about the Gospel of Christ over dinner. 🙂

        • You are right Brigitte. Different approaches in different places for different people.

          I like Jeremiah 16:16:

          Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.

          It is not so much about sensitivity but understandability. We need to start where the listener understands.

          • Maurice - Yes, 'it is sensible to start where the listener understands'; this is exactly what the Holy Spirit will make sure that we focus our thoughts and communication on.
            The Holy Spirit's Wisdom is the perfect, spiritual 'tool' to be applied for spiritual matters - it is the only 'tool'(carrier)!
            You probably know, there is much more than words and intellect at work when we witness. Mere words do not touch the heart of man. The Spirit's ability for words to be recognized for their spiritual value in addition to their intellectual value is what makes the difference.

            Man's own wisdom/understanding is limited to his experience and on which basis those experiences are evaluated on in order to produce 'learning and understanding' - they form man's 'pre-disposition'! But the Holy Spirit takes the background of the person we speak to and produces an 'unbiased' picture, so to say 'the full, unalterated picture'. This full picture then will/can/should set the stage for us when speaking to a person about spiritual matters.

            The Holy Spirit might not start the converstion out addressing the Gospel message directly, but rather addressing an issue that the person we speak to 'wrestles' with at the time of the conversation. Only after listening can we deside which is the better way to go - offering the heavenly Light on the 'how to resolve' or to show compassion.

            The Holy Spirit 'opens our hearts and mind' to perceive much more about the person than what our own observation can provide to us.
            I hope that you are reading my posts related to the Holy Spirit; they provide 'food for thought'. 🙂

            Curious about the reason for quoting in your reply - "I like Jer.16:16 " - and what it is that you like about it?
            This verse is in the middle of God's rejection and proclamation of visiting destruction against Judah before their captivity; but this verse speaks about His longsuffering and committment to His chosen people to bring them back to their land.
            Is it the choice of words - fish, hunt - that caught your attention?
            Would you mind to enlighten me about the 'why' you chose this verse as an example to 'understandability'?

          • I think that Jer 16:16 demonstrates that God uses a variety of methods to achieve his goals.

      • I believe that everyone understands the language of kindness, courtesy, and sympathy. Perhaps it is less about what we speak and more about how we live, especially in a world where true peace and contentment are difficult to find.

        Imagine a people who are simply healthy, happy, and holy, and how that would effect those who are sick, filled with uncertainty and unable to find peace/rest "day or night".

        Not so sure that language will be a problem. The prophet tells of a people who will "arise and shine", and that many will be drawn to their "light...and brightness".

      • Maurice I love the point you made.Someone who is not familiar with the Bible might get overwhelmed when you are quoting scriptures. I think the way you dealt with the question and how receptive the person was. That was definitely the work of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Acts 4:24 say “they lifted up their voice to God with one accord.” Can we say corporate prayer is biblical? corporate prayer is when everybody prayed audibly together at the same.

  4. It is interesting but not surprising to me that the title focuses on 'An empowered Church' when speaking about the Holy Spirit.
    Lately, the harvest of the work of the Holy Spirit seems to have been garnered by the organized church to facilitate an increase in its numbers rather than to increase spiritual understanding and faith of those given into its care.

    As in the beginning, the Holy Spirit is still available to individual believers; if they so choose, they could manage their walk by faith well without the large, unwieldy organized church.
    Relying on the influence and guidance from the Holy Spirit and the Word of God as found in the Scriptures, they can be a force to be reckoned with even in small numbers when kept responsive, flexible and adaptive to the various cultures and customs.
    The effective witness is always the witness established from the midst of those who are being witnessed to.

    The references from the book of Acts are a mixture of testifying to the work of the Spirit of God and the start of the organized church. Acts 5:14 'And believers were increasingly added to the LORD, and then in Acts 16:5 'so the *churches* were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily'; Acts:2:47 '..And the Lord added to the *church* daily such as should be saved'. I do not understand the use of the word 'church' in this context since there was only the 'Council in Jerusalem' organized at that time.

    Matt.28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16 - What started out as the 'Great Commission' to "go into all the world, and PREACH the gospel to every creature", became more and more a focused effort by the incrementally organizing groups of followers into what we call today 'Church'. Church members require 'maintenance' in all its forms; one could call it a mission field within its own walls.

    It appears that today's Western World organized evangelical church is more interested in 'preaching'
    based on what seems to be the best marketing strategy to not loose members or to add more members to their church-roll numbers, and not searching for the leading of the Holy Spirit to empower them to do His work for the lost and found. It seems that the more the church became organized, the less the Holy Spirit's presence was requested.

    What constitutes 'An empowered Church'?
    I would start and end with that it would need to be a Spirit-empowered Church. The Spirit today is the same Spirit working in the days of Pentecost and throughout the early days of spreading the Gospel to the world. The Holy Spirit is always at work in the true believer's heart and mind; but is it the operational/motivational force and focus of the organized Church?

    Acts 2:5,6 - And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. The acts of the Holy Spirit to speak with other tongues created great commotion - (6)..the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

    Jesus had promised the Spirit to come, that HE would empower the disciples to do their work. They believed Him and stayed in Jerusalem, praying, fasting and preparing for the Holy Spirit to come into them so that they can be commissioned to spread the Gospel message.
    Without the Holy Spirit they could do nothing, it required - it was and is essential to witnessing - that our 'acts of witnessing' be endowed/empowered by the Holy Spirit - Jesus said that!

    The Apostles did receive the Holy Spirit, and now He could set the stage to get the 'ball rolling': Among other gifts, He had given the Apostles the ability to speak in the languages of those foreigners living among them in Jerusalem at that time.
    This was done as a sign to impress on them and the foreigners that it was time to get started - the Jewish foreigners were the first to become believers in Jesus and with that, witnesses to be included in taking the Gospel to all the world.
    This was the explicit planning work of the Holy Spirit and the purpose for the gifting of languages to the Apostles

    Acts2:33-39 - To help with their understanding, Peter testified to them of the Authority of Jesus as being the Christ, identifying Him as the same Lord their patriarch David had spoken off. (36) 'Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ'.
    Acts 2:37-39 - assures these Jews from abroad that they can be partakers of the ones being redeemed -(38) ..'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost'.
    Verse 39 - 'For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call'.

    Total trust and reliance on the Holy Spirit's guidance and power is what empowered the believers at the outset of the Great Commission. Today, this is still the only power and guidance the faithful individual and the Church can turn to.

  5. Logistically there were 120 in the upper room how could they baptize 3000 people in one day?
    Did they baptize 25 each, remembering that to be baptized is to be immersed in water, where was it done? I am very logically minded.

    Act 2:38 MKJV  Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    Act 2:41 MKJV  Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. And the same day there were added about three thousand souls to them.

    According to Peter there were two stages -
    be baptized for remission of sins
    and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
    Jesus was baptized in water and then anointed with the Holy Spirit, Matt 3:16, Acts 10:38

    Did they believe and were added to the church that day and maybe baptized later? Or did they receive the Holy Spirit that day and were baptized later in water? Or could these be people who had been baptized in water for remission of sins by John?

    In the early days we hear some received the gift of the Holy Spirit, then were baptized in water Acts 10:44-48
    Then there were others who were baptized in water by Philip but did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came down and laid hands on them and then they received the Holy Spirit Acts 8:12, 15-17

    • Hi Shirley. I have wondered how Peter was able to talk loud enough for 3000 people to even hear him. I imagine there was a Divine sound system of sorts because it wouldn't otherwise seem possible. Same goes for when Jesus spoke to the multitudes (e.g., Matthew 14:13-21).

      • Sieg, good question. One thought is each of the 120 were talking to different groups, using some of the 15 different languages mentioned. When Jesus was on a mountain maybe there was an amphitheater effect.

        Yes maybe it was a miracle so all could hear.

  6. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 2:1

    An Empowered Church

    To understand the Pentecost, we need a quick understanding of the 3 great feasts in the OT. Ex 23:14-19 Nothing happened before or after the righted time. 50 days after Christ return to his Father. The time of Pentecost/Feast of harvest focus on the firstfruit. The Holy Spirit was present at that time. What was the focus of people's attitudes? The literal is used to rep the spiritual.
    We now will be looking at the feast of ingathering- what happened literally at the feast of ingathering/? How do we relate it spiritually to us?

  7. By being connected with the Spirit of Love, we can basically be doing our mission individually. To participate in collective actions is a matter of being involved with people that may think the same. But some may strive for the "mission" more than what they do for their own relationship with the Real Love. Than their works can become empty, not as a result of overflowing joy! Each one of us has a mission to be completed here in this planet, destined by the Fountain of Love. The more we drink from It, the more we will be like rivers of clean waters to spread Love wherever we go.

  8. I know we should not wait for the Spirit to come in this same way to witness now in our individual encounters but it is quite uplifting and exciting to think that this same Spirit will be poured out in this same manner in the final phase of history. Many become apprehensive at the thought of the time of the end and the persecution and chaos it will bring.

    This lesson reminds us that these end time events, will also be accompanied by the powerful hand of God, the Spirit, who will strengthen us to endure and assist us in revealing the Savior to a new multitude of believers. I think this is rather comforting.

  9. Who were the 3000 people who went to JERUSALEM on the day of Pentecost but needed to be baptised? The bible calls them devout men. Which Church did they belong ? Which church did Peter belong too? Which church would that be today?

    • Hi Jason - When you read Acts2:33-39, you will find that these man were of the Jewish faith and lived in Jerusalem but had originated from all accross the then known world. Maurice listed them by country in his post, which you can find at the top of this line of posts.
      I also have referenced the matter with the 'Church' in my post. It is also part of this day's lesson. I can only assume that the writer was referring to the loosly organized groups of fellow believers in the new Faith which had started to form into an organized body. As far as I know, the only fully established and 'organized' jewish authority at that time was the 'Council in Jerusalem' which was composed of the Apostels.

    • The setting for this event was Pentecost or Shavuot, one of the great Hebrew festivals that had been kept since Sinai. It was treated like a pilgrimage and many Jews would return to the Temple to be part of the ceremonies. Such an event would attract Jews from the diaspora, who would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem perhaps once in a lifetime. Jews who took part in the Shavuot were likely to be devout, rather than cultural Jews.

      It is quite possible that the Holy Spirit delayed its outpouring to take advantage of the timing. God is quite strategic in His planning.

  10. We see the words of Jesus(Acts 1:8) being fulfilled by those who had become of one accord and filled with the Spirit. Today, can we say we are of one accord? Can we feel we are filled by the Spirit? What should our focus be at this time?

    Perhaps we put “mission” before personal faith and growing in grace? The Holy Spirit cannot work with any who love this world and harbor sin in the life. Until we confess and forsake sin, we cannot be pardoned or filled with the Holy Spirit.


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