CONTINUING TO INTERPRET THE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
D. Signs and wonders are given to make us believe in the messianic restoration, surrender to Jesus as Messiah, and walk wholeheartedly in obedience to him. In this way, God demonstrates the powers of the age to come to honor and glorify Jesus as the Messiah.
Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong… 12 When Peter saw this (commotion over the healing), he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? … 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus… 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you… 16 It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him (as Messiah) that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.” (NIV Acts 3:6-16)
1. This explains the ambition of the Assembly in the New Testament for God to perform signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ. In the Scriptures, one’s name represents who they are (cf. ), and thus the name assigned to Jesus was “Christ,” i.e. Messiah. Moreover, a “name” represents a governmental position throughout the Scriptures (cf. ). Thus, the glorifying of the name of Jesus simply meant that Jesus was being confirmed as the Messiah, the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” 12 Salvation (i.e. forgiveness and resurrection) is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (NIV Acts 4:8-12)
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” … 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (as a firstfruits), and much grace was upon them all. (NIV Acts 4:29-33)
2. When signs and wonders are anchored as a witness to the age to come, then they are protected from becoming an idolatrous end, in and of themselves. Signs and wonders need a context, a “name”, to glorify. Otherwise, you just end up with shamanism in many forms.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city. 9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria… 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women… 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (NIV Acts 8:5-23)
In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!”… 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God (confirmed by signs and wonders), who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them (thus reigning sovereign over them until the restoration). 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony (of his benevolent sovereignty): He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them. 19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. (NIV Acts 14:8-19)
3. However, within the right context and interpretation, signs and wonders are absolutely necessary for the turning of the rebellious human heart and the firm establishment of faith in the age to come.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing… (NIV 1 Corinthians 2:1-6)
4. As Paul equates his sufferings as “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1:24), the activity of the Holy Spirit could be seen as “filling up what is lacking in the resurrection of Christ.” Signs and wonders do not add or take away from the resurrection, but they are an integral part of the witness of the Church.
E. Concerning the activity of the Holy Spirit, the lack of association with the age to come and the lack of attribution to the name/role of Jesus as Messiah has caused much confusion and great damage within the body of Christ.
1. The Pentecostal revival of the 20th century has been rife with confusion, disillusionment, burnout, jealousy, malice, greed, immorality, etc. Because of this the charismatic/pentecostal movement, a.k.a. New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), has widely fallen into disrepute.
2. Without clarity on the purpose of the Holy Spirit as a helper and witness to Jesus and the age to come, signs and wonders become an end to themselves. The “anointing” becomes idolatrous, the hope and goal of the Christian faith, and Jesus becomes the servant of the anointed ministry, directed and commanded by the prophetic declaration.
3. Moreover, the lack of clarity on the age to come and our identity as a sojourning people has resulted in great damage to the body of Christ regarding holiness. Human beings were created to walk in holiness and righteousness; the earth will be holy and righteous in the age to come; the Day of the Lord will establish this holiness and righteousness; we are commanded to produce fruit of holiness and righteousness in keeping with repentance concerning the Day of the Lord; and the Holy Spirit is given to help us walk in holiness and righteousness as in the light of the age to come.
a) The Spirit is essentially a Holy Spirit, and likewise the “anointing” is essentially a Holy Anointing. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is thus to keep us on the narrow path of walking out our salvation with fear and trembling concerning the Day of the Lord. If the spirit in a meeting does not inherently call people to repentance and holiness, then it is probably not the Holy Spirit.
b) The lack of emphasis on holiness of heart and lifestyle in the charismatic/pentecostal movement reflects the lack of understanding concerning the Holy Spirit in general. This has resulted in a recent flood of moral failures and discrepancies, which seem to little concern leaders within the movement who brush it under the rug and attribute it to the “pressures of anointed ministry.”