The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Three)

img_4493Acts 1:8-9

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (ESV).

The Holy Spirit came to empower the church. This empowerment is for a specific purpose: to carry out Christ’s program of worldwide ministry. During the old covenant age the people of God, with few exceptions, were confined to Israel. Even at its end, when Jesus the Messiah lived under the law, he usually limited his ministry to the people of Israel. But with his ascension, a great change occurs. The Spirit would come upon his followers and go with them into all the world. One of the themes of the book of Acts shows how the message about Jesus Christ knocked down cultural barriers to spread from the Jewish people group to all the peoples of the world. It is good to desire the salvation of one’s own people group (cf. Romans 9:1-3; 10:1). At the same time, we should recognize the cross-cultural intent of the Lord for the good news to spread to the end of the earth. Most of us have easy contact with other people groups. What efforts are we making to reach them?

The Holy Spirit produces a “Christ-focus”. Pay careful attention to Christ’s words. He said that those who would be Spirit-empowered would be “my witnesses”. The job of a Christian is simply to testify to the glory (worth, value, significance) of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ. People who know the glory of Christ will talk about Him! This agrees with Christ’s teaching in John 16:12-16, when he told the apostles how the Spirit of truth would guide them into all the truth that comes from Jesus the Messiah and that speaks of him. Like Packer wrote years ago, the focus on Christ is as a spotlight that directs our attention to someone. The Spirit directs our attention to Jesus Christ. For example, our task is not merely to tell people to know God, but to tell them how to know God through Christ. Our concern is not merely that people be saved, but we tell them that the way of salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. Our message must always be Christ-focused.

The Spirit of God promotes evangelistic activity. He directs Christ’s followers to reach out to whatever people we encounter. We must see that the Lord Jesus has commissioned us to be his representatives on his mission. Yes, you are a “kingdom rep”! We are Christ’s ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) to speak for him and his Father in heaven to whoever the Spirit brings into our acquaintance. If the Lord the Spirit gives us an opportunity to get acquainted with a person, we ought to consider that we are to tell the good news to that person. If he or she becomes a friend, we definitely must seek to bring them to the Savior. The Holy Spirit gives boldness to do the job. This is called the filling of the Spirit.

Christ “would have them look neither for assistance in their work, nor success unto it, but from the promised Spirit alone; and lets them know, also, that by his aid they should be enabled to carry their testimony of him to the uttermost parts of the earth. And herein lay, and herein doth lie, the foundation of the ministry of the church, as also its continuance and efficacy. The kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and, in the animating principles of it, invisible. If we fix our minds only on outward order, we lose the rise and power of the whole. It is not an outward visible ordination by men… but Christ’s communication of that Spirit, the everlasting promise whereof he received of the Father, that gives being, life, usefulness, and success, to the ministry” (Owen, Works, Vol. 3, p. 191).

In the weeks to come, we want to explore with you the majesty of the Holy Spirit and the greatness of receiving him. But in all this, you must maintain a proper Christ-focus, or you will surely go astray. All proper knowledge of the Spirit will lead you closer to the Lord Jesus Christ. That is how you can check your own heart. “Am I growing closer to Jesus my Lord?”

Grace and peace, David