Kingdom.12 Experiential Holy Spirit power.

April 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm 1 comment

Gig Harbor, Washington

You cannot read the last few verses of Luke’s eyewitness account and his historical book called the Acts of the Apostles without coming face to face with this reality:  When the Holy Spirit comes, He comes with power and with some kind of experience.  Let me write it another way; in the Book of Acts, every time someone receives the Holy Spirit it includes some kind of experiential effect that can be described.

The best illustration of this is in Acts 19:2. Paul has come to Ephesus and found some disciples who, as it turns out, only know the baptism of John the Baptist and have not been baptized into the name of Jesus. Paul by the Holy Spirit senses something is wrong and cuts right to the chase by asking a very important and instructive (for us) question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (v.2)

What makes this question by Paul such an important question for contemporary American evangelicals is that by and large they have been taught that the way you know you have received the Holy Spirit is that you are a believer. The way you know you have the Holy Spirit is because everyone who believes has the Holy Spirit. We infer “having” because of “believing”. (I am defining an evangelical as a non-charismatic protestant who is generally serious about evangelism and believes in the Bible as God’s Word, but does not believe in or practice the power gifts)

So if evangelicals want to know if someone has received the Holy Spirit, they only need to ask, “Have you believed on Jesus?” and if the answer is yes, then evangelicals know the person received the Holy Spirit. For the evangelical, receiving the Holy Spirit is a logical inference, not an experience to point to.

But that is not the question the Apostle Paul is asking, is it? Paul says, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” and evangelicals who are serious about understanding this second experience, have to scratch their heads and say, “I don’t get it, Paul. If you assume we believed, why don’t you assume we received the Holy Spirit?”

Evangelicals have largely been taught that all who believe, receive the Holy Spirit. They’ve been taught to just believe that the Spirit is there whether there are any effects or not. But Paul’s question assumes there is a way to know we’ve received the Holy Spirit different from believing. He indicates by his question that there is an experience of the Spirit apart from believing that will prove that the Spirit has come on you.

When the Apostle Paul asks this question, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed,” he expects that a person who has “received the Holy Spirit” knows it, not just because it’s an inference from his faith in Christ, but because it is an experience with effects that he can point to.

This reality is seen all through the Acts, in fact, no where is the coming of the Holy Spirit ever something inferred because of belief, it is always experiential, in obvious ways.  There are at least six stories in Luke’s historical review of the acts of the apostles where we see the Holy Spirit’s coming or being received as verifiable experiences:

1. At Pentecost there was speaking in tongues and praising the mighty works of God and power to witness (1:8; 2:4, 11);

2. in Samaria there is something so obvious in experience that Simon saw it and is amazed and wants to buy the power to make it happen (8:18);

3. in Caesarea at the house of Cornelius there was speaking in tongues and praising God (10:46);

4. in Ephesus where Paul found the disciples of John the Baptist there was speaking in tongues and prophesying (19:6);

5. at Paul’s conversion there is extraordinary boldness and empowering to witness (9:17, 22);

6. and in Acts 5:32 Luke says that God “gave the Holy Spirit to everyone who is obeying him.”

The ones mentioned are speaking in tongues, prophesying, freely praising the great things of God, boldness and power in witness, and obedience to God. One could also include in this list, the working of miracles, signs, and wonders that are results of an obvious infilling of the Spirit. (Acts 6:8, 13:9-11).

My point is this: whether Luke expects these kinds of effects to happen in a first receiving of the Holy Spirit or in a two step process with “baptism in the Holy Spirit” after conversion, or in an ongoing sequence of fillings (or some combination of these three), one thing is clear: Luke expects the receiving of the Holy Spirit to be a real, identifiable experience with the living God.

To live a Kingdom life and to be part of advancing It’s progress throughout all areas of our culture and world one has to have obvious power on their life.  That power comes from the Holy Spirit and it is visible on those who believe.

Speaking in tongues is the most common experiential evidence of the coming of the Spirit in these six stories and instances and will be the subject of another post.

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Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Charismatic, Christianity, Church, Culture, Faith, Holy Spirit, Institutional church, King Jesus, Kingdom, Kingdom Gospel, Kingdom Life, Miracles, Revelation, Supernatural, The Father, Theology, Thoughts.

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.42 Friday (sort of) Funny

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Doug Wright  |  April 30, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I believe that as we search for full truth in what God has for us, He will provide the answers. It will come as we avail ourselves, study and as God sends leaders who help us understand more fully the interaction of the Holy Spirit living in us. God loves each one of us and will provide the path as we search for truth. Thanks for your teaching.

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