vs.17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” vs.18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. vs.19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. vs.20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
vs.21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.vs.22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
INTRODUCTIONThe shift from lots of religious talk (2 Tim 3:5) to the manifest power of God’s kingdom in signs, wonders and gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 4:20; Heb 2:3) is a change most congregations in Australia are unable to make. Perhaps because such lively manifestations of the resurrection (Rom 8:10) have nothing to do with our efforts but depend exclusively on faith in Christ who has become our rightness with God (1 Cor 1:30).
In New Testament terms this confidence with God doesn’t depend on how we feel or think but is a sign of a radically new state of life. A Christian is no longer “in the flesh” dominated by powers of evil but “in the Spirit” ruled by the Lord Jesus (Rom 8:9).
Christianity is “naturally supernatural” because the Father has given the Spirit to Jesus (John 15:26-27; Acts 2:33) to manifest the presence and power of the kingdom of God through his people.
As Jesus loved to show off the Father by submitting to the indwelling Spirit to do the works of God (John 14:10; Matt 12:28) so the Spirit loves to show off the Lordship of Jesus by distributing gifts through the Church (Heb 2:3-4).
The Day of Pentecost marking the transition between the old age of law, sin and death and the new age of righteousness and eternal life in Christ (Rom 6:20-23; 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 6:5) opening up the power of the Spirit to all the people of God (Acts 2:17-18).
This was a refreshing gift brought to the Western Church from the early Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
Today however instead of new wineskins fit for new wine we have increasing spiritual conservatism and hierarchical pastoral control across professedly Spirit-filled denominations (Matt 9:17).
The longing of the Spirit to raise up radically new-life communities manifesting the gifts of the Spirit as signs of Jesus resurrection Lordship (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3), and his coming again soon to renew the whole creation (1 Cor 1:6-7), has been deeply quenched (1 Thess 5:19). In so many churches the Spirit has become an agency “sent from God” to help us enjoy a prosperous life in the here and now.
What scholars call the “apocalyptic and eschatological” framework of the New Testament has been abandoned as alien to present concerns. Instead of the resurrection marking the beginning of the End of the world it becomes reduced to our individual hope for future personal salvation, instead of the Spirit bringing encouragement to a group of tiny, poor and persecuted churches (1 Cor 1:26) our congregations have been radically conformed to this age.
Revelation is particularly important in jolting us back to the “apocalyptic and eschatological” we need today. John repeatedly tells us that it was “in the Spirit” that he had “the revelation of Jesus Christ” which makes up the visions of the book (Rev 1:1, 2, 10 cf. 4:2; 17:3; 21:10).
From Pentecost on we are all called to see “in the Spirit” and live out the dimensions of the end-time kingdom come in Christ.
When, for example, Peter heals the cripple by the temple gate his sermon doesn’t stay fixated at the level of this man’s personal restoration by faith in the name of Jesus but he goes on to preach that it is by the power of Christ that God will restore order to the whole creation (Acts 3:16, 21).
Such life transforming perspectives “in the Spirit” (Acts 4:8) are barely comprehensible today and Paul testifies why in Romans 14:17. In saying, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking” he picks up words Jesus used to indicate ignorance of the imminent Second Coming; as in Noah’s day people will be “eating and drinking” as normal when the flood of divine judgement bursts upon the world (Matt 24:38-39).
Go to your average reasonably sized church and check out their nice cafe, our preoccupation with “creature comforts” is incompatible with the presence of the other half of Romans 14:17, “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We shouldn’t expect foretastes of the eternal kingdom which has broken into history in the resurrection if we are devoted to this world. We need a new encounter we the one who was always living “in the Spirit”.
After his Spirit-anointed baptism (Acts 10:38) Jesus was “led by the Spirit in the wilderness” where the devil showed and offered him “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:1, 5). But being “in the Spirit” Christ vision by faith of the Father’s future gift of the whole universe was far sharper than anything visible in this world (cf. Heb 11:1ff.). An incident in Luke 10 gives us further insight into Jesus life “in the Spirit”.
When the excited disciples return with joy from their mission trip saying, ““Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”, Jesus straightaway replies, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.””
Then he “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth… “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”” (Luke 10:17ff.).
Jesus is powerfully aware in the Spirit that he shares the universal Lordship of his Father. But he also knows this Lordship can only be realised by his death and resurrection.
Only in taking away the old order in the cross and rising in the new creation (Acts 17:31; Rom 8:10; Heb 9:14; 1 Pet 3:18) can Jesus himself be absolutely immersed “in the Spirit” as the apocalyptic “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45) who has become a “life-giving spirit” imparting to the Church a share in his own unlimited everlasting new life “in the Spirit”.
“In Christ” every part of the Christian life is to be conducted, “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9). Paul’s comment, “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) is expressly set in a culture where there were multiple gods and lords demanding submission (1 Cor 12:2).
This ancient problem of divided loyalties between the true Lord and idols has re-emerged with particular potency in our time (1 Cor 8:5-6; Isa 26:13 cf. 1 John 5:21).
Whilst to “worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) in the New Testament refers to inspired charismatic worship united with the heavenly assembly in the context of a life and death struggle with the forces of evil (1 Cor 11:10; 14:26; Eph 5:18-19; Col 3:16-17; Heb 12:18-24; Rev etc.), the famous “worship” churches of our day are noted for their worldiness.
Whilst in the Paul and Jude “praying in the Holy Spirit” is set in a situation of a bitter last time conflict with evil powers demonic and heresies (Eph 6:18; cf. Jude 17-20) in our time it has been reduced to some sort of help from the Spirit to pray. Whilst for Paul Christian “fellowship” and “love” “in the Spirit” (Phil 2:1; Col 1:8) are fruit of the power of the gospel victory of Jesus and a sharing in the heavenly family, weekly church going today has become just another an option.
There’s little sign that we believe in the Spirit “sent from heaven” (1 Pet 1:12). What is lacking amongst us; the New Testament answer is surprising.
The Corinthians were a messed up group but they were “not lacking in any gift” (1 Cor 1:7) in a supernatural way that embarrasses our orderly church meetings. The Galatians were on the verge of heresy but God “giving them the Spirit and working miracles” amongst them (Gal 3:5).
What ties these accounts together with the powerful manifestations of the Spirit in the book of Acts is faith (Acts 3:12-16; cf. 4:9-12; 14:9; Rom 12:3, 6; Gal 3:2-5). Not faith in general but in the resurrection of Jesus.
The outpouring of the Spirit to those who believe makes perfect sense when we remember the promise of Jesus. ““vs.37 If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in me…‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”(John 7:37-39)
When Jesus was mightily preached as “glorified” through death and resurrection (John 12:27-33; Acts 3:13) the hearers put their faith in someone who was presented by the Spirit as the beginning of the restoration of the whole universe (Acts 3:21; 2 Cor 5:17).
With such a vision the hearers “saw” that in Christ God is “bringing to nothing things that are” (1:28) that “the appointed time has grown very short… the present form of this world is passing away.” (7:29-31). As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 7 buying, selling, marrying, mourning and rejoicing about this world has become completely secondary to the Spirit-filled life of the kingdom of God. This is the vision you receive “in the Spirit” and it’s this vision which has been lost to our churches today.
Whereas in the New Testament the space between the resurrection and the anticipated Second Coming is filled with the presence of the Spirit to comfort, guide, correct and empower its worldly weak socially marginalised churches (Acts 9:31; 19:21; 20:22; 1 Cor 5:3-4; 1 Pet 4:14 of the day (1 Cor 1:26), the churches we know have conformed to this age (Rom 12:1). As such they cannot live and see “in the Spirit”.
In working on this series on the “disappearance” of the manifestations of the Spirit in the Western Church I have come to a very unpalatable conclusion.
God is judging us because we have fallen away from a faith-filled heart that the Father has glorified Jesus in the resurrection as the display of his righteous power.
We have turned away from the righteousness of God in the gospel to be received by faith (Rom 1:16-17).
Because of this the Spirit has been withdrawn (cf. Isa 63:10; Rev 2:5; 3:16).
This withdrawal of the Spirit is of great consequence but it cannot possibly be permanent (Rom 11:29), for the absence of the glory of the divine presence is for a greater purpose.
As the Lord has done many times over the millennia the withdrawal of regular supernatural manifestations is a corrective on the Western Church today to make us jealous (cf. Deut 32:21; Rom 11:11, 14).
Jealous for what though?
Firstly for what we know the Spirit did in New Testament times, secondly for what he has done in past revivals, thirdly for what he is doing in non-Western nations today.
This jealousy isn’t designed to move us to try to imitate these moves of God, but to humbly seek the glory of the risen Lord who is doing such marvels (Acts 2:33), to grant us repentance and faith for the outpouring of the Spirit no matter what the cost (cf. Acts 11:15-18).
MESSAGE DELIVERED: Alive@5 St Mark’s | 27th May, 2018
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: 27th May, 2018
Related Link: Where has the Spirit Gone?
Part 1: Groaning is a Gift for Glory
Part 2: Call and Gifts
Part 3: In the Spirit