I believe that the Holy Spirit is – and has been since creation – one of the most powerful ways that God chooses to work in this world. He was instrumental in creation, and through Him life is given (Job 33:4; John 6:63; Romans 8:2-10; 2 Corinthians 3:6). He inspires – breathes life into – scripture (2 Samuel 23; 2 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 59:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 3:7-11; 10:15-17; 1 Peter 1:11).
The mistake, I believe, made by those who put their faith in a Spirit-in-the-written-word-only-today doctrine is in confusing the Author with the work; the Warrior with the sword. It is the difference between purchasing a book to place it on your coffee table at home and inviting the writer of the book to come and live with you.
(If you insist on a Spirit-in-the-written-word-only-today doctrine, suppose you memorized passages from books of several different authors … wouldn’t it be equally valid to say that you were indwelled by the spirit of Mark Twain, James Joyce, William Shakespeare? If someone handed you a copy of The Book of Mormon or The Qu’ran or Dianetics, wouldn’t it be equally valid to say that the words they believed from Joseph Smith or Mohammed or L. Ron Hubbard were sufficiently confirmed by the publication of those books? No need of external evidence to affirm their correctness?)
Scripture itself testifies that scripture alone is not enough (John 5:39); we needed a Savior. We needed a Savior who could be seen doing the work of God in this world (John 10:38; John 14:11). When He sent out the twelve (Luke 9) and the seventy(-two … Luke 10), He prepared them to minister in His absence by giving them authority to preach a gospel of repentance and to help others through healing and exorcism. He knew that the tangible, perceptible authority of God was needed to confirm His word (Mark 16:20) even after He ascended – so He breathed His Spirit upon them (John 20:22) just as He had said He would (Acts 1:8). And the Spirit empowered them.
So I believe that another way that the Holy Spirit works through believers is by empowerment to proclaim boldly and confirm tangibly the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a hollow claim to say that the written word is sufficient and no other confirmation is “needed” today. There was scripture that spoke of the Messiah before He came; and some did not believe when He came. There were miracles present before and during His mortal life; and some did not believe. What is sufficient for some is insufficient for others, and the needs of some do not set the standard for all. Thomas believed when he saw; he was not pronounced less-blessed because of his need to see. Nor are any of the 3,000 of Pentecost who saw and heard the power of the gospel (Acts 2:33).
Witness the Acts of the Apostles. Read the whole book. There is a good reason why it is called “The Acts of the Apostles” rather than “The Word of the Apostles.” Four gospels record “the word of the apostles,” and one of them is the prequel to Acts itself. They acted and they did so in the power of the Spirit.
Scripture testifies to the persuasive power of seeing and hearing the word confirmed; there is no point in arguing it. If the need of at least some to hear and see the word confirm persists to this day, is it any business of ours to contradict the promise of “all” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17) and “forever” (John 14:16; Matthew 28:20) by asserting that God no longer cares about their needs; they are simply not blessed? Scripture describes amply the ways that the Holy Spirit works through believers:
- Teaches and reminds what Christ taught (John 14:26)
- Testifies about Jesus so we will testify about Jesus (John 15:26-27)
- Convicts the world regarding sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11)
- Glorifies Christ; makes known what Christ has received from the Father (John 16:14-15)
- Gives instructions (Acts 1:2; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:6-7)
- Enables believers to proclaim the gospel in other comprehensible languages (Acts 2:4-8)
- Enables prophecy through visions and dreams (Acts 2:17-18)
- Enables believers to proclaim the gospel boldly (Acts 4:31; 1 Peter 1:12)
- Imparts wisdom, understanding and revelation (Acts 6:10; Ephesians 1:17; Colossians 1:9; Revelation 1:10; 4:2)
- Spirits believers away (Acts 8:39; Revelation 17:3; 21:10… see also Luke 4:14)
- Encourages believers (Acts 9:31)
- Displays God’s acceptance (Acts 15:8)
- Enables prophecy and speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6; 2 Peter 1:21)
- Compels the believer (Acts 20:22)
- Ordains overseers (Acts 20:28)
- Warns the believer (Acts 21:4–11)
- Gives life, freedom, peace; seals Christ’s ownership and affirms God’s fatherhood of the believer (Romans 8; 14:17; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Galatians 6:8; Ephesians 1:13) … helps guard that seal/deposit (2 Timothy 1:14)
- Helps the believer in weakness; intercedes in prayer (Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 1:20) … provides access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18) … strengthens the believer (Ephesians 3:16)
- Imparts hope; sanctifies the believer (Romans 15:13-16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2)
- Empowers through signs and wonders what is said and done (Romans 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4)
- Searches and reveals the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-15)
- Makes believers ministers of the gospel, living letters from Christ (2 Corinthians 3:3-8)
- Enables fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1) … provides unity (Ephesians 4:3-4; Philippians 2:2)
- Leads the believer (Galatians 5:18)
- Produces fruit in the believer’s life; sets the pace for the believer (Galatians 5:22-25)
- Inspires songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16– see also Luke 1:46-56; 68-79; many Psalms, esp. 51 in light of 1 Samuel 16:13)
- Provides joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
- Provides power, love, self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
- Provides renewal (Titus 3:5) in the washing of rebirth
- Provides confidence of God’s indwelling (1 John 3:24; 4:13)
- Testifies to the salvation given by God through signs, wonders, miracles and gifts given at His will (Hebrews 2:4) … and among these gifts are
- a message of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)
- a message of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8)
- faith (1 Corinthians 12:9)
- healing (1 Corinthians 12:9)
- miraculous powers (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- distinguishing between spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- different kinds of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- interpretations of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
- administration (1 Corinthians 12:28)
- prophesying (Romans 12:6)
- serving (Romans 12:6)
- teaching (Romans 12:7)
- encouragement (Romans 12:7)
- giving (Romans 12:8)
- leading (Romans 12:8)
- showing mercy (Romans 12:8)
(The last ones – listed in Romans – are the ones my blogging brother Jay Guin labels “those boring old gifts” … with tongue sequestered in cheek, of course. And if you’ve read previous posts and followed the scripture links, you’ve already read most of these – some of them in the comments, kindly provided by Lacey Mauk.)
Obviously, some of these gifts/abilities are more suited than others – in certain circumstances, to certain audiences and being used by certain gifted individuals – in testifying to the power of the gospel (1 Corinthians 14:22). That is why these gifts are apportioned by God, not by our desire (Hebrews 2:4).
It’s amazing how we read these in context, and skip over the words “Holy Spirit” as if they were not there. Yet there are almost half again as many references to Him in the New Testament as there are references to baptism or being baptized. That’s not to say that one is more important than the other, but simply that there is more reference material to consider.
And, with that much to consider, it’s quite possible that I have missed some. But I don’t believe I’ve missed anything that says the Holy Spirit’s power would be restricted to the written word from a certain date, time, era or event forward (certainly not one which has already passed) … or that God would no longer demonstrate the power of the gospel in visible, audible, tangible ways … or that the Holy Spirit would ever work apart from the Word or (God forbid) in contradiction to the Word … or that believers should ever stop asking for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13) or stop earnestly desiring His greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31).
Who would stand to gain more from those restrictions and doctrines? God?