Be Filled With the Spirit

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And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

 

So, have you been filled with the Holy Spirit yet? Do you think it may be a little abrupt to start off with such a question, especially when there are so many other important topics in the Bible? The apostle Paul didn’t think so. That was the first question he asked the disciples he found in Ephesus.

 

He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:2).

 

Evidently, it must be of the utmost importance for a saint of God to be filled with the Spirit for Paul to immediately ask this question. So again I ask, have you received the Spirit since you believed? I know some teach that you get all the Spirit you are going to get upon salvation. If that were true, then Paul would not have asked them this question. If that were so, then the elders in Jerusalem would not have sent Peter and John to lay hands on the new believers in Samaria that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

One day I was talking with another preacher about being filled with the Spirit. He then asked me, “How can you just have some of the Spirit?” I could not give him a suitable answer that day, but I do know the Bible speaks of this second work of God referred to as the baptism of the Spirit or being filled with the Spirit. Most of us know that baptism means immersion, so the baptism of the Spirit means an immersion into or of the Holy Spirit. Who can explain it? We don’t have to be able to explain something for it to be true. Who can explain the triune God? Who can explain that God always was? It is very clear in the Bible that Jesus commanded His disciples to wait until they receive this baptism or filling of the Holy Spirit before they went to make disciples of nations. The reason is because you can’t win souls unless you have an enduement of power from on high.

John 20:22 teaches us that the disciples received at least a measure of the Spirit when Jesus breathed on them.

 

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).

 

What happened to those disciples when the resurrected Jesus came into their room that day is similar to what happened in the second chapter of Genesis.

 

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

 

Just as God breathed into the nostrils of Adam and he became a living soul, Jesus breathed on His disciples and their spirits came alive. They were the first people to be born again. They were the first to be a brand new creature. Adam was born on earth, the disciples were born from above. Adam was earthly, the disciples were heavenly. In the garden, flesh was born, in that room with Jesus, the spirit was born. Hallelujah! Fifty days later they became filled with the Spirit. May I remind you that ALL of those 120 were filled with the Spirit that day? That tells me there was not a wolf or goat in the room. There was only wheat, no tares. Since there was both men and women in the room it teaches us that the baptism is for both men and women. Since there were more people than just the apostles, it teaches us that all believers can be filled with the Spirit, not just ministers. Acts 2:4 says, “And they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost….” That Spirit-filled church in the upper room is our ideal pattern. Do you believe the church can be like that again?

Jesus commanded His disciples to go and wait in Jerusalem until they receive power from on high. Before Jesus ascended to heaven he told His disciples:

 

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

 

The disciples may have thought they were ready to take the gospel to the world, but Jesus knew that going forth with head knowledge, convincing arguments and eye witness reports was not enough. They needed a special power that can only come from the Spirit of God. Jesus said He needed to go so the Spirit could come. Peter could have said to those in that upper room something like this. “Now gang, you all know that Jesus told us to go and preach the good news, but now He wants us to hang around in this room. Doesn’t Jesus see that there are souls going to hell every minute? Doesn’t He see the urgency of the hour? What are we hanging around in this upper room for? We walked with the Lord, we know what to say to the lost.” We know Peter did not say such a thing. The disciples obeyed the Lord and assembled in that upper room in one accord in prayer. If there was anytime lost in the work of evangelism while they were waiting in that upper room, it was made up for in a few moments on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit came and baptized those 120. Peter preached a scorching message under the anointing of the Spirit and 3000 souls were saved.

Bible teachers have taught that the filling of the Spirit is needed for a lot of different reasons. I am not going to get in a dispute over that, but Acts 1:8 does teach us that the primary purpose of being filled with the Spirit is to have power to be a witness. Just a little side note here. Did you know that one of the meanings of the Greek word that witnesses is translated from means martyr? To be this kind of witness, you definitely need power.

I think it is pretty clear that if we are going to be effective “witness” for the kingdom of God, then we must be filled with the Spirit. Paul said don’t be drunk with wine. Don’t be under the influence of alcohol, but be filled with the Spirit and be under the influence of the Spirit. You may not think it is that important for you to be filled with the Spirit, but it is imperative for the lost. Anyone who preaches to them needs to be filled with the Spirit. When a Spirit filled believer ministers, then it is the Spirit of God bringing the conviction and the revelation. When a person preaches without being filled with the Spirit then they are just preaching a logical message to try to convince the mind of men. It takes the Spirit of God to minister to the spirit of men. It is the Spirit who gives life. If you want your message to be full of life, then you have no option, but to be filled with the Spirit. “HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?

About Denominationalism

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Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul” (I Corinthians 1:12-13)?

 

Before I even get started on this article, I want to respectfully say that this article is not meant to bash ministers or churches who are members of denominations. Just as Jesus spoke of His disciples being in the world but not of it, in like manner, you can be in a denomination just not of it. You are of Christ. My hope, through this article, is to convey that the Bible is sufficient, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to order a body of believers to come together and have all the accountability, leadership, unity and order to function in a true New Testament fashion. I even asked myself, “Is it necessary to put out such an article? Won’t this just alienate me from ministers and saints who belong to a denomination?” Then I realized as I have done so often, if I can’t talk open and honestly about such things amongst the body of Christ, when and where can I? Should I go instead and complain to the world?

I want to note that when I refer to denominationalism, I am also referring to all groups who organize like a denomination, but prefer to use a different term to describe themselves. For the sake of convenience, I will use the word denomination throughout the remainder of this article.

Now as I get started you saw in our text, that Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” The answer to that is, of course not. However, the church sure is. Some years back, in one of my articles, I stated that there are over 900 denominations in America. As I think about that statement, I have to yield to the fact that we can’t really know how many there are. A few websites say there are over 30,000 Christian denominations in this world. In America, the Baptist Church is the largest protestant denomination. Wikipedia gave a list of all the different Baptist denominations there are in America. I counted seventy nine of them. So we just don’t have differing denominations, but also differing factions inside one denomination. Hold back your criticism, you members of the Pentecostal / Charismatic churches. I counted thirty two different denominations in your ranks. One question looms large in my mind; “How can a people, who all say they read and believe the same book (the Bible), be so divided?”

Have you saint of God, grown so accustomed to denominationalism that you never bother to consider if it is even biblical? I know it seems the norm for the church. Have you ever asked, “Where in the Bible does it teach or promote denominationalism?” If we are honest, which we believers have no choice but to be, you will have to agree that you cannot find a scripture that teaches that we should create such organizations. In fact the opposite is true. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for picking favorites and identifying with a specific group (“I am of Paul; I of Apollos…”). Are you of Wesley, are you of Luther? Do you follow the ways of the Anabaptists or the Puritans? Is your religion Grandma and Grandpa’s style? Or are you of Christ? Are you a follower of Christ? Is the Bible your rule of Authority?

I am sure you surmised by now that I and the church I shepherd, do not belong to any denomination. Churches of the sort that I pastor are usually called non-denominational or independent. (I like to refer to my church as “dependent,” dependent on the Holy Spirit.) Even using these terms can take on a denominational feel as well. Why do we have to have labels anyway? Why do we look for another way to identify ourselves other than to have our identity in Christ and have the word of God as our authority? I ask you, why is it that the churches who incorporate seem to be the norm and those churches who don’t are considered illegitimate? I get it that there are a lot of troublemakers in the church who have rebelled against denominational authority and started their own little “us four and no more” non-denominational church. When I was a young believer, I used to think that those who were in non-denominational churches were all rebels. I have learned there are plenty of rebels to go around. They aren’t just in the non-denominational churches, but the denominational ones as well. In fact, there is very powerful politics in some, if not many, denominational churches. I have even heard a story from several people, of a high official in a denomination who openly lied to a church body. He did it for the sake of the denomination’s interests. That is what politicians do. Politicians lie, men of God promote truth, no matter the cost. Ministers do not have to lie to keep the saints faithful, but church politicians often lie to keep their denominational agenda on course. I am not saying that ministers who are good strong leaders in their church are a part of church politics, for I assume many are not. However, it is heart breaking to see the church operate like a political machine.

So what is the solution? Can we the church, really come together in love and unity, with true leadership in place and let the word of God truly be our final authority? Can we exist together without having to draft bylaws and corporation papers? Can we all really be members of a church body without having to take several classes and then sign a membership card? Absolutely, positively we can and we must. It starts with believing that it is God’s expectation for His church to be united as one body and then determining in your heart to see it happen in our generation. Again, all Christians will say they agree that there is only ONE body, but our hundreds of denominations tattle on us. They testify that we don’t believe what we say.

 

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:3-6).

 

Seven times you see the word “one” in this verse. What don’t we get about that? What we all need to do is quit saying that we believe the word of God to be our final authority and simply let it be. That means that every Christian who belongs to a denomination, as I said earlier, must refuse to be of it.

I have asked some people if they are a Christian. It is not unusual to get an answer like, I’m Catholic, I’m Baptist or I belong to such and such a church. Let me ask you. Do you really believe the word of God? Are you, saint of God, willing to believe the whole truth as the Spirit reveals it to you, even at the expense of being cut off by your church or denomination? How about you, ministers of God? Are you willing to face losing your credentials, if that is what would come about if you were to preach a truth that is contrary to what your denomination believes? I know of some ministers who left their denomination and lost their retirement all for the sake of preaching the truth. What do you love more, your denomination or the truth of God? If we would dare believe the truth, our denominations would be considered irrelevant overnight.