GuideStones: The Power of the Gospel - Part 1
Along the road on our journey back to Jerusalem we come to GuideStone #1 left for us by our spiritual forefathers in the early church. It points the direction for the power of the gospel to us and warns of dangers if it is neglected. Tragically, we are seeing a de-emphasis in the modern church of the Holy Spirit’s ministry and the part He plays in the revitalization of Christ’s church. If this first church was characterized by anything, it was characterized by power. They found their power (dunamis, from which we get our word “dynamite”) in the personal experience of being “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Unfortunately, in many of our modern day churches the statement of Acts 19:2 could be exclaimed by many members, “We haven’t so much as heard that there was a Holy Spirit.” This forgotten member of the Godhead is seldom mentioned in a New Trendy type of gospel that seems to deemphasize the importance of being Spirit-filled or Spirit-led.
The difference in the first century church and 21st century church can be found in two words — influence and power. The early church did not have enough influence with the world to keep Peter out of prison. But they had enough power to pray him out! Today the church seems to pride herself more in the ability to influence people in high places. Go into the studies of large churches’ pastors’ offices today and you are likely to see pictures with the governor, the mayor or even the President. Influence is the name of the game in much of church life today. But where is this power we read about in the lives of these early believers in Acts who “turned their world upside down?”
In the modern world where self-help overshadows being filled with God’s spirit, the Spirit world of the likes of Peter, Paul, Whitfield, Edwards, Carey, Spurgeon, Moody and so many others seems to be disappearing and even replaced by modern motivational gurus with business success principles. “Reinventing” the church has, for some, become more important than “revival” in the church.
As we stop for a moment at this ancient landmark pointing us to a rediscovery of the church’s power, we read these words,
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’ Others mocking said, ‘They are full of new wine’” (Acts 2:1–13).
Note the word all. They were all together, all in one accord, all in one place, and all filled. Our spiritual forefathers found their power in two tremendously important ingredients — unity and unction.
The members of the early church found their strength in participation with one another. They were “with one accord” (Acts 2:1).They were united and not divided. They decided to stay together as well as pray together. Unity is one of the single most important factors in church growth. We are talking about unity and not uniformity. Cults emphasize uniformity, while the church emphasizes unity. The church is the picture of a quartet with each member singing different parts of the same song but blending together in perfect harmony.
What was the real phenomenon occurring on the day the church was born? It was a miracle of sound and sight. There was a miracle of sound: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). The sound of the wind was the sign of the Holy Spirit. Earlier Jesus taught in His conversation with Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).There was also the miracle of sight. “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3).There were divided tongues of fire which, like the wind, was the sign of the Holy Spirit. Fire that consumes. Oh how our Lord desires to consume us as His church.
There is plenty of talk in some church circles today about seeing Pentecost repeated. How many times have we heard phrases such as, “They had a Pentecost at such and such church?” If Pentecost is repeated there will be some signs. We will hear the sound of a rushing, mighty wind and see divided, cloven tongues of fire appearing above each head. People will speak in glossa (languages) and dialektos (dialects). Why are we not seeing this phenomenon in the church today? There is no need for Pentecost to be repeated. It was a one-time event.
The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believers and never to leave them, just like Bethlehem, was a onetime event and never needs to be repeated. It was like Calvary which was a one-time event and never needs to be repeated. Pentecost is the same. At Bethlehem, we see God with us. At Calvary, we see God for us. At Pentecost, we see God in us. For a Christian to pray, “Lord, send the Holy Spirit just like you did on the Day of Pentecost” would be the same as praying, “Lord, send Jesus to Bethlehem to be born of a virgin.” He already has. It would be the same as praying, “Lord, send Jesus out to Calvary to die on a cross for our sins.” He already has! Pentecost was a one-time event when the Holy Spirit came to indwell the believers, never to leave them and to empower them for service.
Note that the blessing on the Day of Pentecost came “suddenly” (Acts 2:2). It was not obtained through a process of growth or development. No one taught anyone else how to do what happened. It did not evolve out of one’s own mental attitudes. It was the sovereign, supernatural gift of the Father upon each person. No one was excluded (see Acts 2:3). It was not manifested by merit. It was the work of God. It came “suddenly,” and the effect was that “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
One of the problems of the 21st century is that it has lost its expectancy. It is amazing how many events came about in the early church “suddenly.” They seemed to live in anticipation of the unexpected. In Acts 2 the early believers were not waiting until they became worthy. They were praying and waiting, and “suddenly” the Spirit came. Think of the shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night:
“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:9–14, italics added).
Think of the apostle Paul on the Damascus road. The Bible records:
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven” (Acts 9:1–3, italics added).
Think of Silas and Paul in prison at Philippi. The Bible records:
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:25–26, italics added).
Oh, the possibility of those of us who live in the realm of expecting the unexpected!
On the day the church was born, the believers were “all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). They sensed a ministry of attendance. They had felt that ministry since earlier in the upper room when Thomas was “not there when Jesus came.” Now, they were in their place, “all with one accord in one place.” The church today would sense more power if its members lived in anticipation and were all together in one place.
Every layperson in every church has a ministry of attendance. One of the saddest verses in all the Bible is recorded in John 20:24 where the Scripture reveals, “Thomas…was not with the disciples when Jesus came.” How urgent it is to be in one’s place at the time of worship. I have often wondered where Thomas was that day. Wherever he was not really the central concern; the point was, he was not where he should have been when Jesus came. Like Thomas, we are missing out when we are not fulfilling our ministry of attendance. The Lord brought not only His presence into the group that day, but also His peace. One never knows when he is not in his place if Jesus will pass by in tremendous power and presence. I am convinced that the actual reason Thomas was not there when Jesus came was the identical reason so many people in so many churches today do not fulfill their ministry of attendance. They simply do not expect Jesus to be there! A large percentage of church members attend as if they were going to some sort of committee meeting, town council meeting, or motivational seminar without any thought that Jesus is actually passing by. Each of us has an awesome responsibility and a “ministry of attendance” at our own local church.
There are so many people in church today who want to “hear” a mighty, rushing wind or “see” cloven tongues of fire. This was an event never to be repeated. I am not claiming that God could not do this again, but I am saying it certainly seems that He has not chosen to manifest Himself in such a way today. God may move dramatically to work in our lives which involves the senses — what we can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste, or, more likely, He will use gentle breezes and whispers. Remember Elijah? The Lord commanded him, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.”
“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke
the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11–12).
Elijah was in desperate need to hear from God. There was a mighty wind, but God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There was a fire, but God was not in the fire. And finally the Bible says, “a gentle whisper, a still small voice.”1 This is generally the way it happens to me, “a still small voice in my heart.”
One of the real characteristics of the first century church was unity. They were in one accord, in one place. In fact, it is amazing how, as we read through the Book of Acts, they continued to find their strength in participation with each other. They began in Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” They continued in Acts 2:1:“When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.” After the day of Pentecost the Bible records, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).
After Peter and John had been arrested, the Bible emphasizes, “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’” (Acts 4:24).When deep fear came upon them after the death of Ananias and Sapphira the Bible records, “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch” (Acts 5:12).The secret to the growth of the early church was its living together in love and unity.
The most important fact is not what they saw or heard but that they were “all in one accord in one place.” They were in one accord, and God met them in that place. Unity, and unction were manifest. They were as different as people in churches today, but God cemented them together and did great and mighty works through them. Look at those in that group. Peter was there. He was so boisterous and the one who denied our Lord before a maiden. Thomas the doubter was present. John and James were in the midst, having been so selfish in wanting to have the number one and number two positions in the Kingdom. There were forgiven adulterers and also tax collectors. You name it, and they were there — Joseph of Arimathea and civic leaders like Nicodemus. They were all different but their secret was they were “all in one accord” in one place. There was power in unity. They found strength in participation with each other.
Unity was the key to the outpouring of God’s Spirit. This group was so diverse. In fact, it was probably much more diverse than most churches are today. This church did not fish for men like some do today. That is, they didn’t “market” their ministry to one certain type of individual in a certain socio-economic group. Some, today, fish for men with “hooks.” They only want to catch one type of fish so they use a lure that only appeals to one certain specimen of fish. This Jerusalem church fished with “nets” and they caught men and women of all types, shapes and sizes. They had the richest of the rich in Joseph of Arimathea and the poorest of the poor in the widow. Yet, they were “all in one accord.” There seemed to be no petty bickering, no silly jealousy. So many churches today are filled with people who are backbiting and murmuring. Many of us ought to stop worrying about getting a blessing and start worrying about being a blessing. The secret of this Jerusalem church was participation. They found their strength in participation with one another. This is the real key to a great church in the eyes of God. Unity was the theme. They were “all in one accord in one place.”
They not only found their power in participation with one another, but in participation with God. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, italics added). Not some of them but all of them! They had been baptized, indwelt, and sealed by the Holy Spirit; now they were filled by Him. The emphasis in Acts 2 is on the filling of the Holy Spirit. This puts us under the spotlight of the principle of “being before doing,” for what we do is always determined by who we are and what we are. While baptism with the Holy Spirit is a once-and-for-all encounter, the filling of the Holy Spirit is to be repeated over and over again. This is what makes a church great in the eyes of God — a Spirit-filled membership where Jesus is the Lord of every life. At conversion we have the Holy Spirit. When we are filled, the Holy Spirit has us!
The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives involves several factors. It involves the baptism with the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 12:13 says: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
There is also the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 says: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Then there is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13–14 states: “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Next comes the filling of the Holy Spirit found in Ephesians 5:18: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” The filling is conditional upon our surrender to Jesus as Lord.
There is also the anointing of the Holy Spirit. At the Lord’s baptism, the Holy Spirit anointed Him. The anointing is a special touch for a special task. Thank God for the anointing! No preacher ought to preach without asking God for “fresh oil”— the anointing. No singer ought to sing without asking God for the anointing. No teacher ought to teach the Bible without asking God for the anointing.
What is the command of the Bible in regards to the Holy Spirit? Is it to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? No! There is not one command in Scripture to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. In fact, if we are saved, the Bible teaches us we have already been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Are we commanded to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit? No! Is the command, then, to be sealed with the Holy Spirit? Again, the answer is no. The command of Scripture in regards to the Holy Spirit is to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
The filling of the Holy Spirit is a command. The word translated into the English be filled is the word plerousthe in the original language. Every verb has a number, tense, voice, and mood. When we look at this word be filled in Ephesians 5:18, we find that the number is plural. The tense is present, continuous action. The voice is passive, meaning that the subject doesn’t act. It is acted upon. The mood is imperative. There is no option. Therefore, properly translated, the command to be filled in Ephesians 5:18 is saying, “all of you must always be being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
What makes a church great in the eyes of God? GuideStone #1 is the power of the gospel. This involves unity (participation with each other) and unction (participation with God).
What actually happened in Acts 2? It was a phenomenon! They spoke in other languages. Is this happening today? What transpired? It is important to grasp what the Bible really reveals about this incredible event. After all, if our experience does not match the Word of God, it is not valid. As we come before God’s Word, we should try to strip away any preconceived prejudices and simply want to know, “What does the Bible say about this happening?”
Some argue, “I don’t care what the Bible says. I know what I have experienced.” They are subjective, believing more in their feelings than the inspired, written Word of God. In this study we are not preoccupied with the “charismatic” view. It generally claims that if you are really filled with the Holy Spirit, the evidence is you will speak in tongues, since for most charismatics that is a sign of the filling. Nor are we interested in what the charisphobiac declares. He usually argues it is all of the devil, which puts him in a terrible position. We want to know, “What does God’s Word say?” How can we “rightly divide the word of truth” and understand what is actually said about this phenomenal event? Like those men and women who were there that day, we ask, “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:12).With an open Bible, the answer is extremely plain. We never have to be afraid of what the Bible declares, regardless of whether or not it fits our preconceived ideas. The bottom line is the Word of God, not my experience or my pet ideas.
Many people cry, “I’ve had a Pentecostal experience.” Well, if so, that experience will line up and measure up with Scripture. We should look at every experience we have through the Word of God and test its validity. After all, John exhorts us to “test the spirits, whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).We do not have to be afraid of what the Word of God says because the Word is profitable.
In first century Palestine the spoken language was Aramaic, and the written language was Greek. Alexander the Great had conquered the known world, and the Greek language had spread as a universal language. Therefore, when the New Testament was written, it was written in the Greek language. Our task is to find the most ancient Greek manuscripts we can and go back as close to the original autographs as possible. We should want to study the language in which Luke wrote as he penned the word in the book of Acts. The Greek word in Acts 2:4, which is translated tongues, is the word glossa. It means language. It means known language. In fact, we receive our English word glossary from this Greek word. These were languages foreign to the speaker which he had never heard, but by which he was supernaturally empowered to speak as a result of the Holy Spirit. The phenomenon happened with the Jews at Pentecost in Acts 2. It happened again with the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus in Acts 19. Each time the word glossa is used, Jews were present, and unbelieving Jews were in the background.
What happened at Pentecost was that these were all languages unknown to the speakers and spoken at that particular time in demonstration of the entrance of the age of grace.
They were not unknown languages. In fact, we do not read in the New Testament about an “unknown tongue.” You might ask, “What about 1 Corinthians 14:2?” In the King James Version, this Scripture says, “For he that speaketh in an “unknown” tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” If you will read carefully, the word unknown is in italics in our English Bibles, indicating that it is not found in the Greek manuscripts but inserted by translators. The New King James Version omits the word unknown, and rightly so. These languages spoken on the Day of Pentecost were known dialects. Everyone heard them speaking in their own language (Acts 2:8).
It is interesting that this same word glossa used in Acts 2:4 is also found in Revelation 5:9. In this picture of heaven, we read these words:
“And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by
Out of every tribe and tongue and people
and nation’” (italics added).
It is also found in Revelation 7:9:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (italics added).
The word means language. It is linguistic and not some incoherent babbling.
What is the difference between the words which are translated in the English word tongue in Acts 2:4 and the words translated language in Acts 2:6, 8? In verse 4 the word is glossa, and in verses 6 and 8 the word is dialektos. Verse 8 is translated by the English word tongue in the King James Version, but properly translated in The New King James Version as language. This latter word means dialect.2 What we have is the word for language in Acts 2:4 and the word for dialect in Acts 2:6, 8.
So what do we mean? What happened? People gathered from all over the known world for the Feast of Pentecost. There were between 12 and 17 (depending on the translation) different languages represented at that feast on that particular day. The miracle was in the hearing. They heard not just in their own language, but in the dialect which they spoke! For example, in First Baptist, Fort Lauderdale, we had a man from Alabama who was a good friend of a man from Brooklyn, who were both friends of a man from London, England. They all spoke English, but each of their dialects was as different as daylight and dark!
What happened on the Day of Pentecost were known languages spoken in dialects. There is no possibility that Acts 2 refers to any type of unknown gibberish. This was not merely a bunch of different syllables all thrown together like so many people try to teach others today. It passed the test of linguistics. These were known languages of the day, and the miracle was not in the speaking as much as it was in the hearing. No one was teaching anyone else how to speak it. They were hearing it not only in their own language, but the miracle was they heard it in their own dialect!
It is intriguing to pay attention to those who were assembled there that day. “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). This tongue was a sign/gift to the Jewish nation. This is what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 14:21–22:
“In the law it is written: ‘With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people;
And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,’ says the Lord.”
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.
“This people” refers to the Jews. It was a sign to the unbelievers, who were present whenever tongues occurred in the New Testament. It consisted of known languages and was addressed to God in praise. They did not preach the gospel in tongues in Acts 2; they spoke about the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11).After grabbing the attention of the crowd, Peter stood up and preached a gospel sermon in the known language of the day. An interpreter was not needed in this phenomenon in Acts 2.
The result was amazing. “Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?’ ” (Acts 2:7). People began to ask, “How can these men speak these different glossa and dialektos (languages and dialects)? They are neither educated nor traveled. They are not from the universities or the seminaries. Look at them! They are rough, crude, callous-handed Galilean fishermen. How is it that when they speak we hear in our language of the wonderful works of God?” We must remember that this event occurred long before the days of the art of linguistics. It was difficult to learn foreign languages in the first century world. One had to live in a particular country for a considerable period of time. And yet, these Galileans, untrained and unlearned, were speaking in foreign languages and dialects about the wonderful works of God. The miracle was not just in the speaking, but it was in the hearing.
Where is the miracle at Pentecost being repeated today? Some preach we need another Pentecost, so they go to an altar, speak a bunch of unintelligible syllables, perhaps jump up and down, and claim they have had the “Pentecostal experience.” It is plain what will happen if you have a Pentecostal experience; you will hear the sound of a rushing wind, see cloven tongues of fire, and speak in known languages and dialects which you have never heard, and people will hear in their native language without needing an interpreter! Where is this happening today?
What happened here? Why doesn’t it seem to be happening anymore? Some insist it is happening. But the truth is that it is not happening as it did on the Day of Pentecost, manifested with wind, fire, and languages. What was transpiring here? This was the beginning of a new dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the age of grace. What did God do at the beginning of each new dispensation? He introduced it with wonders, signs and miracles which were not necessarily ever repeated.
This is true all through the Word of God. For example, when God created the earth, all matter, He did it with wonders and signs and miracles. He spoke, and it came into being. But since the early chapters of Genesis, not one single atom of matter has been created out of nothing. The same is true when God began the dispensation of the Law. It was ushered in with wonders and signs and miracles which have not been repeated. There was the parting of the Red Sea and the parting of the Jordan. There was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, which led the children of Israel. There was also the manna falling from heaven. This is not to deny that God could do any of these miracles again, but He obviously does not work in exactly that manner today. There is only one dispensation remaining. It will come at the end of this age of grace with the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and will be accompanied by signs, wonders, and miracles that the world has yet to see.3
God can do whatever He wants — except violate His own will and character. He can create something out of nothing anytime He desires. He can part an ocean and rain down manna from heaven. But He is not doing such today as He did at the beginning of these dispensations. This certainly does not imply that He is any less of a God. He is always the same — yesterday, today and forever.
Pentecost marked the beginning of the church age, the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of grace. And like other dispensations, it was accompanied with signs, wonders, and miracles (rushing, mighty winds and flaming tongues of fire, as well as glossa and dialektos spoken by unlearned men).
As the Book of Acts continues, we will see this third sign of speaking in languages, when the gospel is preached for the Gentiles at the home of Cornelius, a Roman centurion at Caesarea (Acts 10). Describing this event, Peter says, “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17 italics added). It emphasized that it was the “same gift.” What happened in Acts 10 at Caesarea was the same thing that happened at Pentecost. That is, it was glossa and dialektos!
We see the identical thing again in Acts 19 when the gospel is preached at Ephesus, the great capital city of the Roman province of Asia. They magnified the Lord with glossa — known languages. It was not unintelligible babbling. This is not what we think happened at Pentecost, Caesarea and Ephesus; it is what the Bible clearly teaches when we study what it actually says. All of us should be concerned more about what God’s Word says than what someone else says about God’s Word or some experience that may not measure alongside God’s Word.
In 1 Corinthians 13:8, Paul says glossa shall cease. That is in and of itself. Some believe that like signs, which accompanied the Mosaic dispensation and the age of grace, they have not been seen again. When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that knowledge and prophecy would cease, he used the word katargeo, which means to make idle, inoperative. It is the same word employed in 1 Corinthians 13:11, where the Bible states we “put away childish things.” However, when Paul, in the same context states that glossa will cease, he uses the word pausontai which means automatically ceased of themselves. The Bible prophesied that there was coming a time when these gifts would cease. Prophecy and knowledge would simply cease, but tongues would cease in and of themselves. We cannot argue this. What we can argue is when this time was or will be. Many believe that such gifts as glossa and dialektos ceased with the completion of the New Testament.
We now have the complete revelation of God (the Bible), which makes fragmentary revelation pointless. Perhaps this is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13:10, when he writes, “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” What is perfect? It is the inerrant, infallible Word of the living God.
Then what does he mean when he declares that “the imperfect disappears” in the last part of verse 10? These gifts belonged to the infancy of the church, and as the church matured they were no longer needed. This is the reason for the next verse, which goes, “When I was a child,…I thought like a child, I understood like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).
Did this particular sign/gift cease? It should be noted that one of Paul’s earliest epistles was the first epistle written to the Corinthian church in or around 55 A.D. It was here, 1 Corinthians 12–14, that he spoke regarding glossa and stated in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that glossa would cease. After writing this epistle, Paul wrote the Roman letter, the marvelous doctrinal treatise of the Christian faith, and tongues were never mentioned. After Paul wrote that epistle, he penned 2 Corinthians, and again tongues were never mentioned. After Paul wrote I Corinthians, the sign of tongues is not mentioned again. Then he wrote Ephesians, the cyclical letter to the church of Asia, and once again there is not one reference to glossa. After Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he wrote Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. In all these books not one word is mentioned about these glossa or dialektos. Why? Many believe it is as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that glossa has ceased.
What is my point? If tongues are as important as certain people attempt to make them to be today, they would have found their place in the letters to the various first-century churches. The only church to which the subject was addressed during the early days of the church age was to a church that was carnal and immature (see 1 Cor. 3). Others claim it is their prayer language. If it were as important as many people try to make it, when the disciples asked the Lord, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), Jesus would surely have mentioned it.
Ironically, men throughout this age of grace who have been the most mightily used of God never spoke in glossa and dialektos. They follow the likes of Augustine, Savonarola, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Finney, Moody, Spurgeon, Sunday, Graham, and the list continues.
What is the phenomenon of Pentecost that needs to be repeated? Is it the wind? Is it the flaming fire? Is it the glossa and dialektos? No! It is the filling! All through Acts we read repeatedly that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. That is what we need — the filling of God’s Holy Spirit. At conversion we have the Holy Spirit. At the filling He has us! And what happened? As they spoke in these other languages and dialects, the people heard them speaking in their own language and dialect. They spoke of the amazing wonders of God and certainly got the attention of the crowd. These tongues did not save a soul; they were attention getters. Three thousand people were saved, and the church was born when the preacher, Simon Peter, stood and preached the Lord Jesus Christ.
Revival comes through the power of the gospel in the filling of His Holy Spirit. But what exactly is the real proof of being filled with God’s Holy Spirit? The proof is evidenced in Ephesians 5:19–21.We will recall that the command of God is found in Ephesians 5:18,“be filled with the Spirit.” The following verse will present the inward evidence. That is, how will you know? There will be a song in your heart!
The next verse gives us the upward evidence. That is, how will God know? Of course God knows everything, but the evidence is in thankfulness. We will have a heart full of thanksgiving and praise. The outward evidence is in the following verse. How will others know? By our spirit of submission one to another.
What is the inward evidence that one is being filled with the Holy Spirit? If God’s command is in Ephesians 5:18, the inward evidence is in Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” What is the evidence? It is singing, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. This is the inward evidence of the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit. We cannot stay filled with the Holy Spirit without singing. In the original text there is no period after verse 18. This is where we find the difference in Christianity and other world religions. If you look at the followers of Buddha they may have their impressive temples, but they have no song in their hearts. The Hindus may have their mantras, but they have no song in their hearts. Islam may pride itself in its perceived morality but it has no song in its heart. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, one of the sure proofs is joy. We are joyful inside. I love the title of that old song, “With a Song in My Heart.” Even though we may be like Paul and Silas in a Philippian jail at midnight, we cannot help but sing. This is the inward evidence of a life that is filled with the Spirit of God.
Note where this inward evidence is manifested — “in your heart” (Eph. 5:19). I am so thankful that the instrument is the heart and not the vocal chords. I often sing in my car when the windows are rolled up. I cannot make melody on an instrument. I cannot make melody with my vocal chords, but I certainly can in my heart!
To whom is this inward evidence directed? “To the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). The Holy Spirit is in the world to uplift and glorify the Lord Jesus. Music is not primarily designed by God to be a tool of evangelism. In other words, Christian music should be the result of a Spirit-filled life that is pointed to God. It is not intended for the world. It is rather unfortunate that many Christian singers today dedicate their songs to the world with the world’s beat and the world’s vernacular.
How is the inward evidence to be experienced? “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”(Eph. 5:19,KJV).Note that it is making “melody” and not rhythm or harmony. Bill Gothard points out that rhythm appeals to the body, harmony to the soul, but melody is what appeals to the spirit. Think about it. Whichever you find predominant in music is where you will discover its intended appeal. I believe the rhythm of rock music appeals to the flesh. The sentimental harmony music appeals to the soul, the self-life. We remember such groups as the Carpenters and all their harmony and love songs. Melody is what appeals to the spirit. We make melody in our hearts to the Lord. Yes, the inward evidence of the filling of God’s Holy Spirit is a song in one’s heart. If one wants to know if he or she is being filled with the Spirit of God, this should be the first characteristic.
There is also an upward evidence of the filling of God’s Holy Spirit, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). Again, pay attention to whom this thanksgiving is directed —“to God” (Eph. 5:20).When we begin to recognize God as the Source of everything, and we allow His Spirit to fill us, we will commence giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to offer this upward evidence “always” (Eph. 5:20).
One person chimes in, “But you don’t know my problem.” Another complains, “But you don’t know my wife.” Another says, “But you don’t know my situation on the job.” But the verse says, “always.” We are challenged to be thankful at all times because that attitude shows that God is in control. Paul expressed it in these words, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If we are looking for a starting point toward finding God’s will, that is precisely the place to start. There is an inward evidence and an upward evidence to the filling of God’s Holy Spirit. And notice for what we are to be thankful — “all things”(Eph. 5:20). Some are only thankful after they receive a blessing. We land a new job, and we pray, “Lord, thank you.” We recover from a sickness, and we praise, “Lord, thank you.” But the evidence of the filling of God’s Holy Spirit is that we are thankful in all things. This means that we must be thankful not only after our blessings, but before a blessing, in anticipation of the victory we have awareness that it will come.
Being thankful also means we are to be thankful, not merely after and before, but even in the midst of the storms of life. Jonah certainly found this truth to be liberating when he pledged,
“But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay what I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).
God appreciated that prayer of thanksgiving so much he had the fish regurgitate Jonah onto the shore. Thanksgiving, this upward evidence of the filling of God’s Spirit, has a liberating, freeing effect. We cannot stay filled with the Holy Spirit without giving thanks always unto God for all things.
There is not only an inward and an upward evidence, but there is also an outward evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Paul continued, “submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).What is this outward evidence? It is submission. We are each to esteem the others better than ourselves. People are not sure we are filled with the Holy Spirit by our speech or the terminology we use, but the outward evidence is in our relationship with other people. Christ, of course, is our example. We remember in the upper room on the eve of His death, having instituted the Lord’s Supper, how He washed His disciples’ feet in a spirit of condescension. Jesus was teaching all that the greatest man is one who uses his authority to build up his people and not like the Pharisee to build himself up. The only means of showing this outward evidence to others is by being filled with the Holy Spirit.
We are to submit to “one another.” This is certainly evidence of the Spirit-filled life. Here is the solution to mountains of our problems. To solve difficulties in relationships, we must come to the knowledge of the truth about ourselves. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit we readily recognize that we have nothing to boast about. A person filled with the Holy Spirit is apt to listen and learn. The Holy Spirit helps us to realize we are members of one body, and therefore, our body functions as we submit ourselves to one another. This spirit of unity and unction is the greatest factor in church growth.
It is also intriguing to see that this outward evidence is to be performed “in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21). This is not just some phrase tacked onto the end of a verse. We are to be submissive to one another, not because it is expedient, but because we fear God. We fear God, not so much in the sense that we fear Him by being physically afraid, but in the sense that we fear disappointing or grieving Him.
When I was in high school, I obeyed my father. My curfew was earlier than most of my high school friends. My dad always wanted to know where I was and when I was coming home. I obeyed him during those years, because I feared him, not so much that I feared him physically, but I feared disappointing him. This is what, I suppose, bothered me the most. Why should we live in submission one to another? Because of the fear of God. Could there be anything more terrifying than to realize that we were disappointing the One who loved us so much that He gave Himself for us?
The outward evidence that one is being filled with the Holy Spirit is this mutual submission — one to another. In the Ephesian letter, Paul goes on to illustrate verse 21 in three ways. The next series of verses illustrates this submission regarding the husband/wife relationship. The following verses illustrate this submission in relationship to the parent and child. And finally, to the employer and employee.
Thus, what is the proof that one is genuinely being filled with God’s Holy Spirit? Is it a certain, assigned gift, or a certain terminology, or a certain miracle? No! The real proof that one is being filled with the Holy Spirit is found in the context of its command. There is an inward evidence, a song in one’s heart. There is an upward evidence, a spirit of thanksgiving. And there is an outward evidence, submitting ourselves one to another. We will never see genuine revival until each of us comes to this element of participation, not only with others in unity, but with God in unction, the filling of God’s Holy Spirit. This is the church member’s most pressing need in these last days of church history.
Untold numbers of members in churches today try to give out when they have never taken in. Jesus declared, “He that believes in me as the Scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.” There are two kinds of wells — surface wells and artesian wells. A surface well is not very deep.
When I was a small child, I used to visit my great-uncle who ran a country store nine miles outside of Pikeville, Tennessee, on the side of a mountain. I was a city boy and quite fascinated by that lifestyle. They had an old water pump outside the back door of their house. He would go out and pour a little water from the Mason jar into the pump, thus “priming” the pump, and then he would pump, pump, pump, until the water started flowing. As long as he pumped, it would flow, but as soon as he stopped so would the water. And one always had to remember to fill the jar, because it would have to be primed again. Have you ever known any church members like that? If you want them to serve the Lord Jesus, you have to prime the pump. So many try to enlist workers by begging and pleading and stroking. Why? Because those people are shallow like that surface well.
However, there is another kind of well that we call an artesian well. It goes down deep into the ground until it hits an underground stream or river. You don’t have to pump an artesian well, all you have to do is tap into it, and it flows and flows. I hope you have known believers like that. Those church members are not complaining, “I’ve been here six months, and nobody has come to see me!” They are insisting, “Is there anyone I can go and visit?” These people are not carping, “No one spoke to me today!” They pick out people and make a point of speaking to them first. What is the difference? Some want to be served while others want to serve. Some are shallow, while some have tapped into the river of life and are being filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
The church will be revived again when more and more of its people experience first-hand the filling of the Holy Spirit in their lives through confession of sin and a total abandonment to Jesus Christ as Lord. The early church found their strength in participation, not only with each other, but with God: They were “all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
In the midst of a world of modern church growth principles which seldom, if ever, mentions the importance and power of the Holy Spirit it behooves us to remember that all roads lead to Jerusalem. And along that road we come to GuideStone #1 — the power of the gospel. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit we can never make an impact upon our world. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us unity and unction in the life of the church. Otherwise, our meetings are nothing different from a myriad of other self-help groups and organizations built upon marketing and motivation that produce a false sense of hope achieved through some type of pumped-up mental attitude.
It is the Holy Spirit Himself who empowers His church to make a difference in the world. The Jerusalem church was solely dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst. When we read these accounts in Acts we see over and over the necessity of Holy Spirit power. Shouldn’t we find it amazing and alarming that this is such an item of de-emphasis in so much of the modern church growth movement? It was through Holy Spirit power that this early church challenged kings and rulers and took the gospel to uncharted territories and hostile environs. Thousands of these early Spirit-filled believers met horrifying martyrs’ deaths…all empowered by God’s Spirit. And the Bible says “the world was not worthy of them.” They turned their world upside down. They left us some guidestones along the journey back to Jerusalem to point direction for us and warn of dangers ahead. At GuideStone #1, we learn there is a difference between influence and power and come to appreciate and hopefully, appropriate the power of the gospel.
Next week… GuideStone #2 – The proclamation of the gospel.
- Life Application Bible (Wheaton, III.: Tyndale Publishers, Inc., 1986), 305.
- Fritz Reinecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 265.
- W.A. Criswell, Acts an Exposition (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 77–78.
- Ibid., 79.