Summary: Paul, Pt. 14


A brother attended a charismatic church retreat. It was such an emotional highpoint for him. He said he had never cried so much in his life before. Curious, he asked why more than half the audience speaks in tongues simultaneously, so I shared with him the practice is against the teaching of the Bible, citing 1 Corinthians 14:27-28 that says, “If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three-should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.”

I vividly remember my first encounter, as a young, second-year new believer, with a popular charismatic pastor, who presented the work of the Holy Spirit in such an unflattering way. At that time no one had the faintest idea that the Baptist pastor had turned charismatic. 13-year old Jonathan, the youngest in our group of boys, had asked the charming church camp speaker to pray for him and invited us to join him for the appointed meeting. Inside his room, the speaker asked us to stand in a circle, with the youth in the middle facing him. As the two oldest in the group, I and another youth, who later became a seminary professor, watched with our eyes open while others dutifully closed their eyes. We were next shocked by the discrepancy of eyewitness accounts. The man pushed him with such force that the boy staggered back a step or two while his eyes were still closed in prayer. After the prayer, controversy ensued. The youth asked him pointblank, “Pastor, did you push me?” He replied with a straight face, “No, I did not push you. The Holy Spirit pushed you.” We told the leaders, who later met with the man to clarify the sequence of the events – of course, to no avail.

Such has been the misinformation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation surrounding the Spirit’s activity and work in a believer’s life, that Paul balances the teaching of the gifts of the Spirit with the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, equal with both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in essence and nature, in deity and person, and in power and glory. The Spirit permanently indwells believers at the instant they believe, baptizing them into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), sanctifying them for obedience to the person of Christ (1 Peter 1:2) and sealing them till the coming of Christ (Eph 4:30). Yet there is a lot of confusion. Our charismatic brothers say the evidence of the Spirit’s activity is in speaking in tongues and performing miraculous, signs and wonders. I am not anti-charismatic, but non-charismatic.

What is true of the Spirit’s presence? What does He do and how does He work? How does the Spirit sanctify us for Christian living? What is the foolproof evidence of the presence of the Spirit in a believer’s life?

The Spirit’s Presence Commands Victory

16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Gal 5:16-18)

A brother was goaded by lust, and rising at night be made his way to an old man, and told him his thoughts, and the old man comforted him. And revived by that comforting he returned to his cell. And again the spirit of lust tempted him, and again he went to the old man. And this happened many times. But the old man did not discountenance (embarrass) him, but spoke to him to his profit, saying, “Yield not to the devil, nor relax thy mind: but rather as often as the devil troubles thee, come to me, and he shall go buffeted away. For nothing so dispirits the demon of lust as when his assaults are revealed. And nothing so heartens him as when his imaginations are kept secret.”

So the brother came to him eleven times, confessing his imaginings. And thereafter he said to the old man, “Show love to me, my father, and give me some word.” The old man said, “Believe me, my son, if God permitted the thoughts with which my own mind is stung to be transferred to thee, thou wouldst dash thyself headlong.” And by the old man saying this, his great humbleness did quiet the goading of lust in the brother.” (Helen Waddell, The Desert Fathers, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks, 1960, p. 77.)

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