Experiencing the Holy Spirit
Many passages in the Bible promise that the Holy Spirit will live within the hearts of God’s people. As gently as a dove He comes in and is there. Scripture says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you are bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Other Bible passages describe the “indwelling” Spirit as comforting and guiding and purifying and helping Christians to grow spiritually and live good lives. (Ezekiel 36:27, Romans 8:9-13) The work of the Holy Spirit is to make us like Christ.
We can allow Him to do His work in us or we can ignore Him and shut Him out. The Bible speaks of “grieving” the Holy Spirit. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the Day of Redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
These passages and many others describe the gentle working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Quietly day after day nudging God’s children along, teaching them to live in obedience and repentance and faith and love. As a teacher He helps us understand God’s Word, the Bible. The “indwelling” Holy Spirit silently gives each believer nine fruits. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
But then other Bible passages describe another way that the Holy Spirit can work in a believer’s life. Other Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit not only as a dove indwelling the believer but also they describe the Holy Spirit as a fire coming down upon the believer, sometimes making him or her tremble or shake or fall down. Along with the Holy Spirit “indwelling” the believer, these passages also describe a second working of the Holy Spirit. This second work of the Holy Spirit is to “empower” the believer and equip him/her to minister to others with supernatural power.
Scripture describes this “empowering” Holy Spirit as giving gifts to each believer so that they can go out and minister to others.Scripture says: “To each believer the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one believer the gift of faith is given and to another the gifts of healing and to another miracles and to another, prophecy, and to another the gift of distinguishing between spirits, and to another speaking in different tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:7) The fiery empowering Spirit is described as giving out different gifts or tools for ministry to each believer as He sees fit. The believer then can minister to others in the power of the Spirit.
Without this “empowering” of the Holy Spirit the Christian may find that there are times when education and hard work and caring and money are all still not enough to solve a problem or get a job done. There may be a family member or friend who wants to take her own life and you try everything to stop him but he commits suicide anyway. Or you may be sitting by the bed of a loved one with terminal cancer and you feel helpless to do or say anything that might help. These are the times when only the supernatural power of God (the empowering Holy Spirit) will get results. Without the Holy Spirit power you may not be able to minister effectively.
The New Testament records that the after Jesus went back to heaven the apostles were met with strong opposition when they tried to spread the gospel. They were arrested and jailed and beaten and ordered by the religious leaders to stop preaching. But the Holy Spirit was there in power working miracles and healings through them. And this power evangelism opened doors for Christianity to spread all over Jerusalem and Samaria and out into the rest of the world. (Acts 5:15,16,28)
Most evangelical churches focus on the Holy Spirit’s “indwelling” ministry, teaching that the Spirit works quietly within the believer. And many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches focus more on the “empowering” work of the Holy Spirit. Healings and prophecies and speaking in tongues are sometimes emphasized more in these group. But of course both the indwelling and the empowering work of the Holy Spirit are important in the life of the believer.
The indwelling ministry of the Spirit is automatic. We don’t have to ask the Holy Spirit to live in us. Scripture says that He does that when you believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord. But the empowering of the Spirit (or some call it the baptism of the Holy Spirit) is usually not automatic. We usually need to pray and ask God for this empowering of the Holy Spirit. Or have someone lay hands on us and pray that we receive this anointing.
Scripture tells of Philip preaching in Samaria and many Samaritans believing in Jesus. But these new believers did not receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t until Peter and John made the trip from Jerusalem to Samaria and laid hands and prayed for these Samaritan Christians that something actually happened and they actually received this Holy Spirit power. These Samaritan Christians had an observable experience with the Holy Spirit when Peter and John prayed that they receive the empowering of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:18, 19)
Another example of this is when Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:5) Three days later Ananias, a disciple of Christ, came and laid hands on Paul and prayed for him to be empowered by the Spirit. (Acts 9:17) And only then did Paul receive this Holy Spirit empowering.
One reason many Christians never experience the empowerment of the Spirit is that they never want it or pray and ask for it! Some may have been taught that it doesn’t even exist. Maybe they are afraid. Scripture tells us to pray to receive this empowerment from the Holy Spirit. God wants to give us the Holy Spirit and the Bible tells us that our heavenly Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask. “If you being sinful know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13)
God desires that we have faith and believe in Him and we need to ask for the Holy Spirit in faith. Scripture says: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5) God promises us this baptism or empowerment of the Holy Spirit, so we can believe and stand on His promise. One expression of this belief or faith is the willingness to persevere and continue seeking until we have received. (Luke 11:5-13)
The baptism of the Holy Spirit can come through the laying on of hands. In these cases God chooses to give His power through another believer. I think that God imparts His power from one believer to another because God wants us to work together as the Body of Christ. God wants us all to do things in unity. He does not want us to be “Lone Rangers”. We need each other.
The New Testament seems to be saying that there are different levels of empowering. The first time you receive this Holy Spirit power you may not receive a great deal of power. But if you keep going back to God asking for more and you use what He gives you, He will give you more of this power to be an effective minister. God wants all of His children to have access to His power in order to walk in victory. He is willing to pour His power out on all who will seek it.
Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from Robert Heidler’s book, “Experiencing the Spirit”.