The Power of the Holy Spirit

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. If you could have one super power, which one would you take and why?
  2. What is the most powerful thing in the world?
  3. Describe one powerful experience you have had with God

Our Study: the power of the Holy Spirit

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.” (1 Thes. 1:4-6)

Objectives

 

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Understand the promises of scripture in relation to the giving of the Holy Spirit
  2. Grasp the finished work of Jesus as the basis of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work
  3. Experience the empowering presence of God in being filled with the Holy Spirit

Introduction

Last time we looked at giving our best to God by wholly giving our lives over to Him who wholly gave His for us. Our motivation is not out of duty (even though God certainly has the authority to command us) but out of need – it is not selfish to delight in the ways that the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus benefit all of us.  These benefits are commonly referred to as the gospel – that is, the good news.  We are probably most familiar with how the death of Jesus saves us from sin, and the term for this is justification – we are declared righteous on account of the life and death of Jesus Christ and are sins are forgiven (Rom 3:21-26).  I fear that for some, this is the extent of salvation – that God has purchased us a plane ticket redeemable at the time of our death. This is not wrong as it is incomplete.  Imagine a country that pronounces a prohibition on alcohol and to enforce this new law the authorities break every bottle of alcohol but they leave the factories in tact – wouldn’t this be ridiculous?  For the very next day there would again be alcohol in the country.  In the same way, Christ who came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) did not forgive our sins only to leave a sinful nature from which we may produce more sin – this would not be life to the fullest (John 10:10).  Let’s examine some scripture so that we “may have power … to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that [we] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19)

Study:

 

  1. Read John 16:7.  What are the conditions necessary for the sending of the Spirit?

    According to Jesus in the Gospel of John, the sending of the Holy Spirit (here dubbed “the Counselor”) is contingent upon Jesus’ ascension and that Jesus’ ascension is the necessary and sufficient condition for the sending of the Spirit.  Imagine you are at a fast food restaurant and order a cheeseburger and some french fries and after paying for both items, you only take the cheeseburger.  What should you do?  Surely you wouldn’t need to pay a second time, or beg the manager for the forgotten item, but would only need to take what was forgotten the first time.  In the same way, we needn’t beg God to send His Spirit anew but only thank Him for already sending the Holy Spirit.  And just as we don’t always feel forgiven but are in fact forgiven, we may not always feel the Spirit but He resides in us nonetheless;  He is always the Comforter but we may not always feel comforted.  In this sense the objective work of Christ secures the indwelling of the Spirit (John 14:16-17).

  2. Who is indwelt with the Holy Spirit?

    From such passages as Rom 8:9, 15; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:13 we can see that the Spirit indwells every believer. Even passages like 2 Cor 5:17 – that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation – and 1 Cor 6:19 – that every believer is the temple of God – seem to hit at this truth indirectly.  It is at this point that we must make a distinction between being indwelt – which every believer objectively posses – and being filled  – a more personal, subjective experience that varies between believers.  Indeed, unbelievers without the Spirit of God will not apprehend the gospel even if they cognitively understand it (1 Cor 2:14, Rom 8:7).  The indwelling of the Spirit brings a new creation (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 7:6) while being filled by the Spirit brings power, manifestations of grace, purity and ultimately the presence of God.

  3. Power

    Many passages speak of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8, 4:33, 6:8, 10:38; Rom 15:13, 18-19; 1 Cor 2:4-5).  Perhaps the most succinct is Phil 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  Paul is writing this while starving from prison (and you can read about his sufferings in 2 Cor 11:24-33) and yet he is able to do all things.  The Bile is clear that we will be supernaturally empowered to live a Christ-like life (2 Tim 1:7) and those who do not exhibit such power are Biblically suspect (2 Tim 3:4-5).

    Some points to note – this power is not “automatic”: our flesh (sin nature) is at war with the Spirit (Rom 8:6-8).  This power is not something “harnessed” – that is magic, exemplified by Simon Magus in Acts 8:18-24 – but a blessing enjoyed as we obey God’s will – which is religion.

  4. Manifestations of Grace

    These are often called “spiritual gifts” even though in many passages the word “gift” does not appear.  Time and space do not permit me to fully unpack what these mean nor will most people be unaware as we exercise these gifts every week during the service.  The most audacious promise about these gifts is found in John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father”.

    Some points to note – spiritual gifts are nowhere in the Bible described as super powers that we may exercise at any time for any reason we desire, but  always are for the edification of the whole body (the church) (1 Cor 12:7; 14:5, 12).  In this sense, these manifestations of grace are tied to a ministry, and often this is a ministry borne out of weakness and not out of strength (2 Cor 10, 11:16-12:10).  Finally, these manifestations may not of themselves represent divine favor (Matt 7:21-22 – note that those who Jesus does not know have prophesied, cast out demons, and performed many miracles) – that is to say that the miraculous is not automatically divine.

  5. Purity

    The Spirit cleanses of us sin’s defilement and pollution by enabling us to “by the Spirit … put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Rom 8:13) just as we are commanded to (Col 3:5).  This process is called sanctification – that we are to subjectively and progressively destroy the habits and manifestation of sin in our lives.  Indeed, to be baptized is to be washed and cleansed – and to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to be cleansed from our old nature (Isa 4:4; Ez 36:25; Zec 13:1; Mal 3:2-3; John 13:10, 15:3). “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb 9:13-14)

    Some points to note – the experience that Paul describes in Rom 7:7-25 is that of a Christian.  Paul also declares himself “chief sinner” (1 Tim 1:15).  The struggle will not end during our life;  our wrestling with sin will increase as we discover more and more of that sinful nature in ourselves.  Also, while I have no scripture to support it, it has been my experience that by focusing solely on purity I tend to become deathly introspective, legalistic, joyless, and eventually burnt out as I watch myself continuously fail to meet the standards of purity.

  6. The presence of God

    I suggest that each of the previous ministries of the Holy Spirit be understood in light of the main function of the Holy Spirit – to mediate Christ’s presence to believers.  It is this presence that we lost in the fall (Gen 3:8), that caused the patriarchs to built altars and rename places in memorial (Gen 12:7, 28:16-17), that caused Joseph to be successful in all he did (Gen 39:2, 21), that gave Moses the courage to lead the people out of Egypt (3:12, 33:14-16), that enabled Joshua to lead the people into the holy land (Deut 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5, 9), that filled the temple and the tabernacle before it (1 Ki 8:10, 13; Ex. 40:34-38), that David pleads for after his sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51:10-12), that gives life out of death (Ez. 37:1-14).  Jesus’ first coming as Immanuel (“God with us” Matt 1:23) is elsewhere described as God “tabernacling” among us so that we may experience His glory (John 1:14).  Jesus’ promise on his ascension is that He will be with us always (Matt 28:20).  The Holy Spirit represents the “firstfruits” (Rom 8:23), the seal and down payment (Eph 1:13-14) that guarantees what is to come (2 Cor 1:21-22) in the fulfillment of the age;  for now we only know in part but when perfection arrives we will know as we are known (1 Cor 13:9-12) where we will experience God’s presence directly (Rev 21:1-4).

    Experiencing this presence of God is to know Him which is the way we may experience eternal life now (John 17:3) and represents the invasion of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Out of this presence we will experience power for living, manifest this grace for building up the Church, and find ourselves continually washed from sin.

 

Application:  What does being filled with the Holy Spirit look like?

 
While there are areas in all of our lives where we fall short of living the Christ-like life, I believe we should never fail to emphasize the fruit of the Spirit described in Eph 5:22-23.  While the gifts are discrete (separate and distinct) that may or may not always be present or manifested, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, multi-faceted, and to be always present in every Christian life. Examine the list of “the acts of the sinful nature” that are contradictory to the fruit of the Spirit (Eph 5:19-21) – are we participating in any of those?  Likewise, let us examine the fruit of the Spirit and realistically assess in which areas we need to grow.  I believe that when we live in obedience to the Holy Spirit – “walk by the Spirit” – we will experience the abiding presence of God with us.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Eph 5:25

Prayer time:

  1. Open with Psalm 62:11 (NASB) “Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God”.  Thank God that it does not belong to men or women or ourselves but to God alone who is gracious and compassionate and gave His only Son so that we might be reconciled with Him.
  2. While every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, not everyone is filled with the Spirit;  Acts 19:1-6 shows that it is possible for people to have never experienced the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pray that everyone in your group might experience a filling of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Often we have unrepentant past sin, bitterness, footholds given to the devil, and even someone elses sin against us that can block us from experiencing God’s grace.  Ask God to bring to mind any area or memory that might need cleansing and invite Jesus to show us what needs to be done.
  4. Often we have gifts, abilities, and talents that remain latent; ask God to give us more tokens of His favor and show us how we might best glorify Him through serving the church by using what He has given us.
  5. Close with Revelation 19:1 (NASB) “After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God'”  Thank God that the good work he has started in all of us will eventually be brought to a competition at the end of the age.
  6. Open up the prayer to both communal and individual concerns. Pray and minister in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Christ.

Further Reading:

Acts 6:1 – 8:1 – what features distinguish Stephen from other disciples?

1 Cor 12-14 – while chapter 13 is often read at weddings, the larger context of Paul’s argument is showing that the exercise of spiritual gifts without love is fruitless.  Love is “the most excellent way” (12:31) and these gifts are to be exercised in love for the purpose of edifying the church.

John 3 – most people are familiar with John 3:16 but in the larger context Jesus is talking about the “second birth” that is from above. How is the Spirit like the wind?

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