Lesson 3 - The Power and Anointing of the Holy Spirit - Part 2:

The Holy Spirit's work

The New Testament speaks of two aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit.

A. Awareness of God and our salvation

The first is bringing us to an awareness of God through the work of inner conviction. "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:8)

It is impossible to become a Christian apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. And Bob Gordon points out that not only does the Holy Spirit bring us to God, he also keeps us in God! As Paul says, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14)

We can not even know we are Christ's without the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16) And what does the Spirit testify? "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." (1 John 5:11) This is an issue each of us needs to settle, because a root of many of our problems is not knowing Father God's love and acceptance. I was brought up to never depend on feelings, because feelings can not be trusted. Instead, I was expected to know God loves me because the Bible says so. This is a focus on the mind, and neglects the role of the spirit, and the Spirit. It is a recipe for spiritual failure. It wasn't enough in my day - steeped as it was in intellectualism. Even less is it enough now, where the postmodern younger generations are crying out for meaningful relationships, but are saying there is no abslolute truth, and are only convinced by what works.

Assurance of salvation has little to do with accepting with our minds the intellectual premise that we are saved because we have read it, or been convinced by a friend or an evangelist that it is true. This will not sustain us during the testing times. Faith is not blind acceptance of something otherwise unprovable - that is a good definition for religion, not Christianity. God is not cruel. Faith is about the certainty of our salvation imparted to us by the experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling us to obey the commands and leadings of Father God, through that same Spirit - because we can trust God to do for us what he says he will do.

The Pharisees of John 5 are an example of faith based on the reading of Scripture alone. They were working out of their heads, not their hearts or spirits. This is evidenced by the fact that when Jesus, the one who fulfilled their Scriptures, came, they did not recognise him, but killed him to protect their religion. It is still possible to be such a Pharisee today, even as a 'Christian'! It is Jesus, the living Word, who makes us Christians, not the Bible.

It is a tragedy that Western culture has convinced so many that they don't need - in fact should avoid - an experience of God. Fortunately, God disagrees, as witnessed by the outpouring of experiences of the Spirit's presence in recent years.

In contrast to those who claim salvation but reject or fear spiritual experiences, some people claim to have experience of the Holy Spirit, yet have little assurance of salvation. Both are on dangerous ground. Often people come for help with a perceived problem, but what they most need is some simple but sound teaching, and a personal introduction to the one true Counsellor.

B. Power to live

Once we have become Christians - Christ's ones - then the second task of the Holy Spirit begins. Paul prays that, "Out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3:16-17)

What does 'Christ' mean? Just like the Hebrew word 'messiah', it is Greek for 'the anointed one'. On earth Jesus proved he was the Christ - the one with God's power. Now we are to be Christ's ones - we are to be anointed with God's power. This can only happen by us being 'Christed', as Bob Gordon puts it - filled with the Anointed One. But there is a difficulty. Jesus has ascended to the Father's right hand, he is no longer on earth. So he asked the Father to send his Spirit (John 14:16-17a). The Spirit baptises, or anoints us with power. Interestingly, to the Romans at the time of the early church, 'baptise' meant 'to rub with oil'. They added communal mixed massages to the list of supposed debauchery practiced by the Christians! Of course, to us the significance of oil in the ministry of the Holy Spirit has not been lost.

Bill Subritzky in Explaining the Anointing of God, describes the anointing of the Holy Spirit this way: "It is knowing the supernatural presence of God upon us. It is being aware of His presence with us. I would describe it as an actual physical experience when we feel the warm presence and glow of God upon our body. It is like a signal that God sends to us saying that He is showing His presence to us, that He is with us and approves of what we are saying or doing. With the anointing of God there is also the power and healing of God." Others feel other effects. For example, Diana feels a sort of tingling in her stomach. For me it is as if warm oil full of electricity flows over my head and down my body. Some perspire, or their face glows. Others tremble, double up, cry out or laugh. They may even fall over. It might be a simple 'knowing', but it is reasonable to expect our body to respond, just as it does to the presence of natural emotions. After all - God is awesome in power and presence.

We will return to this in a moment, but for now realise that these manifestations are not the anointing - they are its effect. If they do not happen this does not mean God's power is not flowing. Interestingly, as a person grows more accustomed to God's presence these things might reduce or stop, and yet they can still minister effectively in his power.

Notice that the emphasis of the strengthening with power in Ephesians 3:16-17 is not so much on doing the wonders that Jesus did, but so that we may live the life of Jesus on earth now. This is much wider. Of course, included in this will be the works that Jesus did, and even greater works (John 14:12). Prayer ministry involves doing some of the healing works of Jesus, and we do it in exactly the same way Jesus did, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the gifts he has given to the church.

There are various lists of gifts in the New Testament: Romans 12 mentions prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy. 1 Corinthians 12 adds wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing(s), miracles, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostle, prophet, teacher, helpers, administration. Ephesians 4 has apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher (or pastor-teacher).

Some of these gifts are functions, such as leadership, while others of them take the form of an office, such as a prophet. In the case of an office, this is not a gift to the person with the office, but a task and a lifestyle. The person who has the office is God's gift to the church.

None of these lists is complete, and there is also some overlap. There is no reason to suppose that these are all of the gifts of the Spirit. At least five other gifts appear in the New Testament: celibacy (1 Cor 7:7), voluntary poverty and martyrdom (1 Cor 13:3), hospitality (1 Peter 4:9-10), missionary. Peter Wagner also suggests intercession, exorcism, music, and craftsmanship.

Don't try to tie the Spirit down - it can't be done. "The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

For example, take the gift of speaking in tongues. People make the rules about its operation - there must be an interpreter, etc. True, at times this is correct, but this gift is used by God in far wider ways, as you will discover.

There are times when the Holy Spirit takes over my synthesiser keyboards and plays with me. The music is wonderful, and I am consciously playing it, but it is beyond what I am capable of doing. I like to describe it as playing in tongues. Sometimes I, like other musicians, try to make it happen, but you can always tell, because I generally dig myself into a musical hole from which I can't climb out! When God does it is like a cooperation between the Lord and myself, a sort of duet for two hands - both of them mine - and two minds!.

Wait until you have laid hands on someone and prayed in tongues and had a demon tell you to stop it; or had the person fall instantly into a deep sleep. Then you realise there is far more to this gift than it simply being a sign of Spirit baptism, which itself is a dubious idea. I was moving in healing, prophecy, and accurate words of knowledge and wisdom long before I spoke in tongues.

The Holy Spirit never contradicts scripture, but neither is he confused by the lists we construct out of passages the writers never said were definitive. And even for the gifts that are listed, we have only a few examples and little instruction for their use. After all, the people to whom Paul was writing experienced them first hand and knew what he meant by his words in a way we can't. They didn't need convincing. The important thing about spiritual gifts is that they are not natural talents, although the Spirit might take a natural talent and spiritually enhance it far beyond what the person could normally achieve. Spiritual gifts are the result of the Spirit of God doing something through a human being which they would be completely unable to do otherwise. This could be anything, because nothing is impossible for God! Can a man raise someone from the dead? With the authority of God Smith Wigglesworth did! Once he even did it when he shouldn't, and God made him let the person die again.