Summary: Empowering the Church for worldwide mission.
THE AGE OF THE SPIRIT
When Ezekiel looked out across the valley of the dry bones, the LORD asked him, “Can these bones live?” to which the prophet answered, “Well, Lord, if anyone knows you do.” The Lord GOD spoke to the bones through the mouth of the prophet, and they revived: but they were as inanimate as fallen clay statues. Then His servant prophesied to the wind, and GOD breathed His Spirit upon them (Ezekiel 37:1-10).
When Jesus went to the Cross His disciples were scattered, and Peter denied Him three times. The church seemed finished, but within weeks the same men were courageously preaching Christ crucified as the only means of salvation (Acts 5:28). Such was the change in the Apostles that even some of the priests became believers (Acts 6:7).
What had changed? Well, for a start, the Lord had risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven (John 16:5). Then Pentecost ushered in the beneficial service of the age of the Spirit, whose influence and operation more than compensate for the departure of Jesus (John 16:7).
The underlying message of Jesus’ upper room discourse was one of encouragement (John 14:1; John 16:33). He was concerned that His imminent departure left them seemingly orphaned (John 14:18). He had to remind them not to be borne down by overmuch sorrow (John 16:6).
The Spirit came in the fullness of His power to convict the world of sin, even the sin of unbelief (John 3:18-20); to convince the world of Jesus’ righteousness, cutting to the very heart of those who had crucified Him (Acts 2:37); and to warn the world of the judgment to come, in which the devil already stands condemned (John 16:8-11). It is manifestly the “world” which is challenged concerning these truths. It could be said of the early Christians that they were “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Jesus had many things still to teach His disciples, but before His resurrection they were not ready to receive them (John 16:12). We grow up by stages, moving from milk to prepared foods, to fulsome meat. The Holy Spirit came to impart enabling power for the application of the Word of God, to bring glory to Jesus, and to show things yet to come (John 16:13-14).
In the first instance, the Spirit of truth enabled the Apostles for the preaching of the Word of God, empowering them to make their stand before the world. Secondly, He inspired the writing of the New Testament. Thirdly He blesses all His people with understanding of the Word, and with insights into the spiritual truth that they need for their salvation (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit takes the gifts of God, which Jesus purchased by His death and resurrection (Psalm 68:18), and applies them to our lives. He takes the message of Jesus, and writes it in our hearts (John 16:15). Within the limitations of the incarnation, Jesus could only be in one place at one time: but the Holy Spirit’s ministry on His behalf is worldwide.