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Empowered By the Spirit

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”” ()
In previous lessons, we have seen over and over our dependence upon the grace of God in the Christian life. The very plan of salvation is the story of God’s gracious initiative to send His son to die on the cross for sinners who were as yet in rebellion against God. Having responded to the gospel, Christians then learn that
their response was actually rooted in God’s gracious choosing and calling of them before the foundation of the earth. In the fight for holiness, we find that all our efforts have their start in the sanctifying work of God who “works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” ().
The Christian life is truly “all of grace, from first to last.” Because of this, God never intended believers to merely “trudge on” in their own strength. Indeed, one of the great promises of Scripture comes at the very end of
the book of Matthew, just after the giving of the Great Commission: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (). In this lesson, we will
explore more fully the source of strength for the Christian life: the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit: God’s Active Presence
While God is omnipresent (present at all places at all times with all of His being), He makes His presence known in different ways for different purposes. He can
be present to bless, to sustain, to punish, and to empower. God manifested His presence in various ways throughout history, but these reached a climax in the
person of Jesus Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (, NKJV)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” ()
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” ()
In the church age, God’s presence is primarily manifested in the world, and especially in the church, in the person of the Holy Spirit.
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” ()
“The work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the church.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology
Christians have the great privilege of not only trusting in God’s omnipresence, but of personally experiencing His nearness.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” ()
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” ()
It would be a mistake to focus narrowly on the more dramatic aspects of this, such as miracles, healings, or prophecy. Scripture portrays the Spirit’s work as pervasive and multifaceted—what might be called “the broad work of the Spirit.”
To fully appreciate God’s active presence, we need to recognize the countless ways in which the Spirit is at work in and among us.
“The Spirit’s major role in Paul’s view of things lies with his being the absolutely essential constituent of the whole of Christian life, from beginning to end. The Spirit thus empowers ethical life in all of its dimensions—personal, corporate, and in the world. Believers in Christ, who for Paul are “Spirit people” first and foremost, are variously described as living by the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and sowing to the Spirit. . . . The Spirit conforms the believer into the likeness of Christ to the glory of God. The Spirit is therefore the empowering presence of God for living the life of God in the present.” – Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence
The Holy Spirit: God’s Saving Presence
The New Birth: The greatest miracle one can ever experience is the miracle of regeneration, in which the Holy Spirit changes our nature and imparts spiritual
life to us. Nothing can ever compare with this mighty work of the Spirit in our lives.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” ()
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” ()
It is important, when discussing the doctrine of the Holy Spirit to distinguish clearly between regeneration and filling of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is the one time initiatory experience into salvation and new life in Christ. All believers (if they are truly believers) are regenerate. It is a permanent condition. The filling of the Holy Spirit, which believers experience after conversion adds nothing to the reality of regeneration. It simply empowers those who are already regenerate for spiritual
revival and acts of ministry.
The Holy Spirit: God’s Purifying Presence
One of the Spirit’s primary activities is to remove sin from our lives and to make us more and more holy, just as God Himself is holy.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” ()
The Fruit of the Spirit
As the believer cooperates with the work of the Spirit in his life, the Spirit produces “fruit” in his life, consisting of godly attitudes and behavior. This supernatural work is the opposite of our natural tendencies and is the reproduction of the life of Christ in the believer.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” ()
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (vv22–23)
The Holy Spirit: God’s Empowering Presence
In addition to effecting regeneration and sanctification, the Holy Spirit also empowers believers for Christian witness and service.
The Filling of the Holy Spirit
Filling in the Holy Spirit is the experience in which the believer is freshly empowered by the Holy Spirit resulting in an increased awareness of God and energized for life and service.
This operation is distinct from regeneration and occurs when the Holy Spirit comes upon a believer and fills him. In other words, we believe that every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit at conversion (regeneration).
However, filling in the Spirit is a distinct work of grace that empowers and sustains us as Christ’s witnesses.
The purpose of these experiences is to enable the believer to bear witness concerning the gospel and serve the Lord with spiritual power. The need to seek power from the Holy Spirit reminds us that the strength we need is not from ourselves, but belongs to God ().
The New Testament envisions a process of repeated, continual fillings of God’s Spirit. A Christian may have been indwelt by the Spirit at conversion, but yet may not be presently filled with the Spirit.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel….:” “And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (, )
Note: These are the same people who were filled in .
The Holy Spirit desires to fill each believer continually with increased power for Christian life and witness. Our responsibility and privilege is to live a life of dependence upon God, asking for His Spirit to continually fill us, to empower us, and to strengthen us to live lives for His glory.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” (, NKJV)
“Being continually filled with the Spirit is, in fact, the challenge of a lifetime and the challenge of each new day.” — Anthony Hoekema
While FBCR recognizes that Christians hold various positions on doctrine of filling with the Holy Spirit. We desire, and have found it to be possible, to accommodate believers who have differing views on this issue but who
nonetheless share many beliefs and values concerning the Spirit’s ministry.
Those common values we feel would be most important include:
1. A recognition of the need for ongoing empowerment by the Spirit in the Christian life.
2. A belief that Christians are to seek to be continually filled by the Spirit.
3. A belief in the continuity of the spiritual gifts that promote Christ and His gospel, listed in Scripture and an earnest desire for whatever gifts the Spirit would graciously give.
4. A love for, and pursuit of, the active presence of God.
It has been our experience that, if these values are held in common, a person can comfortably and fruitfully be a part of FBCR.
Spiritual Gifts
In addition to giving us increased boldness and effectiveness in witness (), prompting worship and thanksgiving in our hearts (; ), increasing our growth in godliness (), and strengthening our relationship with other believers (, ), the Holy Spirit also imparts supernatural gifts for the edification of the church and for works of ministry in the world.
1. All believers have and receive spiritual gifts.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” ()
2. All of the gifts are supernatural. In Scripture, all of the gifts, from seemingly “natural” ones like mercy and serving to “supernatural” ones like healing, are all viewed as being from God and empowered by the Spirit.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” ()
3. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are vital for the mission of the church and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” ()
5. The purpose of spiritual gifts is the glory of God and the edification of other believers.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” ()
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:” ()
Pursuing God’s Empowering Presence
Because God invites us to draw near to Him (; ) and commands us to be filled with the Spirit (), we can have confidence that He will respond to our pursuit of Him.
A Personal Pursuit
We encourage you to diligently practice the spiritual disciplines, especially the study of God’s Word, prayer, and worship. Amazingly, God desires an intimate relationship with us, and the spiritual disciplines are means God has given us to commune with Him, receive His grace, and grow in godliness.
“The Spiritual Disciplines then are also like channels of God’s transforming grace. As we place ourselves in them to seek communion with Christ, His grace flows to us and we are changed. That’s why the disciplines must become priority for us if we will be godly.” — Donald Whitney
The Bible is God’s self-revelation to man. In it we learn what God is like and how we are to respond to Him. There is no more important activity for the Christian than reading and meditating upon the Word of God.
Prayer is communication with God. It is the lifting up of our hearts, thoughts, and desires to God. When we pray, we communicate with God, and He communicates with us. For our part, we communicate our gratitude, confess our sins, submit our wills, present our requests, and pour out our worship. We also listen, allowing God to give us divine perspective on our lives, search our hearts for sin, illumine our minds with His truth, encourage our souls with His promises, and assure us of His love through Christ.
A Community Pursuit
We also need to recognize the value of the corporate gathering of the church for experiencing a fresh infilling of the Spirit. While private devotions are crucial for the Christian life, God is pleased to reveal His active presence in corporate meetings in ways we don’t normally experience when we are alone.
“It’s true that God will manifest His presence to you in congregational worship in ways you can never know even in the most glorious secret worship. That’s because you are not only a temple of God as an individual, but the Bible says (and far more often) that Christians collectively are God’s temple…. God manifests His presence in different ways to the “living stones” of His temple when they are gathered than He does to them when they are apart.” – Donald Whitney
The Sunday Celebration
In the life of this church, nothing exceeds the importance of our Sunday corporate meetings. These times provide a context where we can worship God together, hear the Word of God proclaimed and taught, and be built together in our mission as a church. Each Sunday has three primary goals:
To Worship and Glorify God
There is no higher calling for the people of God than to worship and glorify Him together. Our Sunday meetings provide the opportunity to glorify God, to declare His perfections, to praise His name, and to adore Him together.
To Receive from God
Although the main purpose of corporate worship is the exaltation of God, worship is nonetheless a means by which we encounter God together and are refreshed by His presence, strengthened by His grace, encouraged by His promises, and transformed by His truth. These things occur both through our times of worshipping God through song and through the preaching of God’s Word.
To Minister to One Another
Believers are given the privilege of caring for, encouraging, and building up each other. Each Sunday is an opportunity for us to minister to others through prayer, words of encouragement, prophesy, greeting, sharing of Scriptures, and a multitude of other ways.
Other Church-wide Contexts
At FBCR, there are a variety of other gatherings that take
place within various ministry spheres. Home groups also play a critical role in our life together as a church. Each of these contexts provides opportunities for us to experience God’s active presence together as we seek Him through worship, the teaching and application of God’s Word, and fellowship with each other.
God’s Active Presence: Our Privilege and Need
As believers, we should never be satisfied with anything less than the nearness of God—His active presence. He has promised to draw near to us, and He empowers us by the Holy Spirit to glorify Him and serve Him more effectively as He accomplishes His purposes through the church. To be a Christian is to be marked by the presence of God, and how gracious He is to give us the Holy Spirit to empower us for our lives, our service to Him, and our life together as a church.
How desperately we need this. And how wondrous it is that we can pursue this in faith—and do so together.
Key Concepts and Terms from this Session:
“The broad work of the Spirit.”
The Fruit of the Spirit
Filling of the Holy Spirit
Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual Disciplines
To Prepare for Our Next Class
Read “The Doctrine of Sanctification”
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