What Churches Do

Have you ever wondered what churches are for and why people go to church? What does it really mean to "get baptized" to "take communion" and to "dedicate babies"? Or perhaps you have heard someone ask, "Do I need to go to church? Why can't I just worship God in nature or in my home"? What would you answer? Whether you attend church services regularly or not, this course will interest you. Series were written by Robert and Evelyn Bolton.

Churches Submit to the Holy Spirit

Churches Submit to the Holy Spirit

As we write this lesson it is springtime! Tree branches burst with new life in light and vivid green. Buds sprout and blossom into colors of white or pink or yellow. Bright flowers of blue, red, yellow, and orange hues suddenly appear and decorate gardens. Of beautiful springtime, King Solomon wrote:

The winter is over; the rains have stopped;
in the countryside, the flowers are in bloom.
This is the time for singing;
the song of doves is heard in the fields.
Figs are beginning to ripen;
the air is fragrant with blossoming vines.
— Song of Songs 2:11-13

The work of the Holy Spirit in churches is like springtime beauty! As congregations of people submit to His working He revives them with new life and radiance. Unconverted people become “born spiritually of the Spirit” (John 3:6).

The Holy Spirit and the Believer

Frederic Burke, missionary to South Africa, has given us his testimony about being baptized in the Holy Spirit:

“I was a young man in Bible school. God was pouring out His Spirit upon the students. I, too, began to seek God. I wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. One night as I waited quietly before Him, the Holy Spirit seemed to lead me into the garden where Jesus was praying, then to the judgment hall, and then to Calvary. I wept before God as I seemed to share the sufferings of my Savior.

“Then the Holy Spirit came upon me, breathing deeply into me until my whole being seemed filled with His power. I began to speak, first with a stammering tongue, then in a clear language. My soul was filled with the glory of God. Jesus, the great Baptizer, had come and baptized me with the Spirit. My soul was filled with His goodness.

“What a difference this Baptism made in my life. I had been timid and unable to speak in public; now I suddenly had boldness. As I stood before a large congregation the words just flowed out. I heard myself giving forth the Word of God in power yet it was not I, but the Spirit of God speaking through me.

“While I was still in school, God called me to Africa and later made a way for me to go. Through the 60 years that He has allowed me to minister, the anointing of the Holy Spirit has been with me.”

A testimony like Frederic Burke’s caused Mary to start thinking more about the Holy Spirit. One evening on their way to the church service she suddenly asks, “Isn’t the Holy Spirit within me now that I’m saved?”

“Yes, dear, it was the Holy Spirit’s work to lead you to Christ and now He is within you,” replies Timothy.

“Then why do people talk about receiving the Holy Spirit if we already have Him?”

“Because—oh, here is Allen. I think he can explain it better than I can.”

Their friend Allen listens to their questions and then says, “Yes Mary, as a believer you do have the Holy Spirit living in you. In Galatians 4:6 we read, ‘To show that you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.’ 1 Corinthians 3:16, also says that God’s Spirit lives in us. Because we are children of God, the Holy Spirit dwells within us.”

Allen continues to explain. “When you hear people talk about receiving the Holy Spirit after conversion, they mean receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit. When you are converted the Holy Spirit comes to live within your heart. When believers receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit He comes upon them, filling them to overflowing. It is like an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon us.

“Let’s look up some Scriptures. Acts 2:17 says, ‘This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit on everyone.’ Here Peter explains that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a fulfillment of a prophecy given in Joel 2:28. Peter went on to say:

God raised Jesus from death. He has been raised to the right side of God, his Father, and has received from him the Holy Spirit, as he had promised. What you now see and hear is his gift that he has poured out on us (Acts 2:32-33).

“Like those in the early church, believers today can receive this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus said, ‘I will send upon you what my Father has promised” (Luke 24:49).

“What happens when a person receives this outpouring of the Holy Spirit?” questions Mary.

“Wonderful things happen,” replies Allen. “As you worship the Lord and surrender completely to Him, the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Then He speaks through you in words you have never learned. The Holy Spirit uses your voice to glorify the Lord.

“On the Day of Pentecost about 120 believers, both men and women were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability. They spoke in many different tongues, languages are given to them by the Holy Spirit. All were telling about the great things God had done” (Acts 1:15, 2:5-12).

Hearing this Mary asks, “How may I receive? I would like the Holy Spirit to come upon me!”

Allen smiled. “This experience is for you, Mary. Open your heart to the Lord and start praising Him. As you worship Him, yield yourself to Him and accept His gift to you. It is the Lord Jesus Himself who will fill you to overflowing with His Holy Spirit. Today God is pouring out His Spirit upon millions of believers all around the world. And no one needs to be left out of this blessing.”

The Spirit’s Anointing

The Spirit’s anointing is an important aspect of His ministry. Let’s consider the meaning of the term anointing.

To anoint means to put oil on someone or something as part of a ceremony. This was done in Old Testament times when persons or objects were set apart for service to God.

The prophet Samuel poured olive oil upon David’s head when he set him apart to be king over Israel. The record says, “Immediately the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and was with him from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13). When Moses dedicated the tent in the desert, he anointed it and the altar with sacred oil (Exodus 40:9-11). Aaron, the first high priest, was also anointed (Psalm 133:2).

Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The word anointing is used to describe the special touch of the Spirit’s power that enables people to do something for God, something beyond themselves.

Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, David composed songs which we call psalms (2 Samuel 23:1). He was also a prophet and foretold the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead (Acts 2:30-31). This same anointing, or the Spirit’s power, came upon Peter when he preached to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36).

When the early church chose seven helpers called deacons for the work of handling the finances and business of the church, they chose men who were “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). The Spirit’s anointing was considered essential for their daily work. Such were the high spiritual standards of the early church. How necessary, therefore, is the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon every activity and ministry of the churches in our day! Our praying, preaching, teaching, evangelizing, counseling, singing, or playing instruments all should be anointed by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God. Only then can Jesus Christ be uplifted and people be edified or built up in their faith.

Spiritual Gifts to Build up the Church

The Sunday evening congregation has been singing, praying, and praising. It becomes quiet. Then a member of the congregation starts speaking in a strong, clear voice. His message exalts Jesus the Savior and encourages the people to believe and obey Him. His words ring with authority and bring comfort and hope. The pastor encourages the people to respond to the moving of the Holy Spirit. A new wave of praise goes up to the Lord.

“What is happening?” gasps Mary.

“It’s a message in prophecy,” Timothy whispers. “We will find out more about it later.”

The people are now in a hushed and receptive attitude to hear the Word of God as it is preached, especially since it relates to the utterance given through the church member by the Holy Spirit.

After the sermon, the pastor invites people with special needs to come forward for prayer. Some of the church leaders gather around and lay their hands upon each one with a need. The people are encouraged to pray and believe together in God’s answer to these requests. The sound of prayer is like rushing waters, and everyone is blessed.

What happened in the earlier part of the service was a manifestation of one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, an utterance in prophecy. Timothy and Mary later studied this in 1 Corinthians 14. Verse three tells us that the one who proclaims God’s message (the one who prophesies) speaks to people and gives them help, encouragement, and comfort.

When the Holy Spirit moves among a group of Spirit-filled believers, love and power flow out from within them. It is like a river that flows, bringing healing and life to people in need. The flow of this power comes through believers using the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Miraculous things take place. People are healed and also delivered from sinful habits. The church begins to grow.

The gifts of the Spirit must be manifested according to the guidelines laid down in 1 Corinthians 14. Christ should receive the glory and believers should be built up spiritually. God wants our coming together to give life; our meetings should not be disorderly but harmonious and peaceful (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Nine beautiful gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Each one is unique and supernatural that is, each is above or beyond our natural talent or ability. Though we may not fully understand all the workings of the Spirit, we do need to be open to receiving whatever the Lord has for us.

Briefly, these supernatural gifts are defined as follows. The word of wisdom is special wisdom for a special needs a bit of God’s wisdom spoken at the proper time. Through the word of knowledge, the Holy Spirit causes believers to say things that they in no way could know through their abilities. The gift of faith is a supernatural ability to believe, especially for a certain need.

The gifts of healing flow out from the Spirit, through the believer, and to the people in need of healing. Through the gift of working miracles the person through whom the Spirit is moving has the supernatural power to do things that would otherwise be impossible. Prophecy is speaking in one’s language in the power of the Holy Spirit, either telling forth (as in preaching) or foretelling.

Through the discerning of spirits, the Holy Spirit enables a person to look beyond what is seen and know what spirit is manifesting itself (God’s Spirit, a human spirit, or an evil spirit). The gift of tongues is the ability given to believers to speak a language they have never learned. It may be an earthly language or the language of angels. The interpretation of tongues is giving the meaning of what is said in another language. We must remember again that the ability and direction come only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you have not yet done so, study Your Helpful Friend in this Christian Life Program series of the International Correspondence Institute. It will give you further teaching about the Holy Spirit.

Churches should make room for these spiritual gifts as taught in God’s Word. These gifts will enable them to extend the gracious ministry of Christ and the early church to today’s needy world. Jesus promised that we would do even greater things than He did (John 14:12). This is possible when we submit to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent in His place to flow into, and upon, and out through His church in mighty life-giving force.

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