Over the next few days I will be serialising a lightly edited transcript of the sermon I preached last Sunday on the Holy Spirit’s activity within the Church today. I appreciate this is a subject that many people have questions on, so I have opened up a discussion thread on Facebook and The Gospel Coalition Network for us to discuss these issues. Feel free to also submit questions or comments via a Twitter comment @adrianwarnock.
You can download the audio or watch the sermon right here:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols however you were led. Therefore, I want you to understand that no one speaking in the spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed,” and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts. but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord. And there are varieties of activity, but it is the same God who empowers them all in every one. . .All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he will. 1 Corinthians 12
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are present with us this morning. Thank you for being here in our worship. Now we ask you—come inhabit the preaching of your Word that this message will be helpful to us, it will be instructive to us, it will be inspiring to us, and it will result in a fresh release of these wonderful gifts of Holy Spirit among us, we pray. Amen.
For the last few months at Jubilee Church, we’ve been looking at the book of 1 Corinthians, and the title of that series has been “Authentic Christianity.” This morning, we’re looking at one more aspect of what defines “authentic” Christianity, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Activity of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit is here on earth because Jesus isn’t physically here anymore. Jesus promised that when he went away, he would send the Holy Spirit. In John 7:37-39 we are told that Jesus stood up at a great feast and shouted out the following: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John then explains, “Now this Jesus said about the Spirit whom those who believe in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Paul says something similar in 1 Corinthians 15:45, that the last Adam, which is a name for Jesus, became a life-giving Spirit. Something very special happened to Jesus as he rose from the dead and was ascended on high. He received power. There was an energizing of his body, if you like, as it lay in the tomb, and as he came back to life. He became a life-giving spirit. What does that mean? It means that right here, right now, today, on the A10 in Enfield, in the cinema here in Enfield, the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead is available to you and me. The same power that re-animated a body that had been crucified and that had laid in that cold tomb for three whole days, that brought that body back to life, that same power. And it’s not just a power—it’s the person; he’s here in this room. He is that presence that we may have been aware of. Maybe as you came and you visited (you may not even be a Christian here this morning), but you’ve sensed a presence in this room. You’ve sensed a person is here. It’s that person who we worship. It’s the person of Jesus, but he’s made manifest through his Holy Spirit. He’s here by the Spirit. The Spirit’s job is to reveal Jesus to us, and to reveal the Father to us. He’s here.
Jesus said to his disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you” (Acts 1:8). And then we see the fall of the Holy Spirit, tongues of fire come, and they stand speaking in other languages that they’ve never heard—the gift of tongues. We see the crowds wondering, saying, “What is this? What is going on?” Peter says, “This is what was spoken by the prophet, Joel” (Acts 2:16).
The prophet Joel promised a time when the Holy Spirit would be made available for everybody (Joel 2:28-29). He promised a time where it would no longer be, as it was in the Old Testament, that there were just one or two prophets, one or two special people who experienced direct communication with God. We were made to know God. We were designed to have a relationship with him. Adam and Eve had a relationship with God. God walked with them in the Garden, but sin broke that relationship. And by God’s grace he continually chose individual prophets in the Old Testament, and he would reveal himself to them. He would speak with them, some of them even face-to-face. And it was Jesus who would walk with them and talk with them and would explain things to them, but it was only a few of them that ever experienced that. Why? Because you cannot see God and live if you are a sinner. But because of Jesus’ death, because of his resurrection, a way was made open for all of God’s people to prophesy as it says in Joel. For all of God’s people to see visions, to dream dreams, to hear from God, to know God for themselves. It’s a wonderful promise. And it was fulfilled in Acts. Peter explained this as follows in Acts 2:32-33: “Look, this Jesus, God raised up, and of that we were witnesses.” (So they had seen Jesus. They had touched him. They ate with him since he had come back to life.) “. . . being therefore exalted on the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he (Jesus) had poured out that which you see and hear.”
There is an interesting verse buried in Galatians 3 that we often miss. You don’t need to turn to it; you might want to go look at it afterwards. Paul talks about Jesus’ death on the cross, and then he says that he died so that “we might receive the promised Spirit” (Galatians 3:14). So Jesus’ death and resurrection had a goal in mind. We tend to think that the goal is heaven, and that’s right, but the goal for us today is actually a foretaste of heaven on earth, and that’s what the Holy Spirit is. Ephesians 1 puts it this way—the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance. So we know we’re going to heaven because we have faith, but we know we going to heaven also even more strongly than that because of the Holy Spirit poured out on us. One of his key roles is to make us certain that we’re going to heaven.
Now, if someone says to me, “Adrian, I want to buy your house [which is unlikely at the moment, not least because it’s not on the market!] and they said I want to put a deposit down, they have to actually give me the deposit. Some people think that we just receive the Holy Spirit automatically, and that all Christians somehow have the Holy Spirit, and of course it’s true that you cannot be a Christian unless the Holy Spirit is working in you, producing faith in you, but there’s also available an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s activity, and unless we are truly aware of the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible to see how he can really be a deposit. I need to be able to phone up my bank and say, “Okay, he says he’s given me the deposit. Is the money in my bank account?” And, I suppose the bank manager could even lie, so, in some ways, the only way for me to really know is to go and pull the money out of my account and hold it in my hand, see it
, feel it, touch it, maybe even smell it.
We know when we’ve got a deposit. We must understand and underline that— whatever else the Holy Spirit is in a believer’s life, the goal is for us to receive him, to know that we’ve received him, to experience him, to be aware of him, and to enter into this personal relationship with God, which can sound a bit weird in the modern world, but it is something that many of us in this room will testify—we know Jesus! There’s an old song—how do we know Jesus? He lives within our heart. That could sound a little bit trite, but actually it’s the reality. I KNOW that my Redeemer lives! Amen? Because I know God through him.
To be continued…