When two men were empowered by the Holy Spirit and began prophesying among Israel, a young man delivered the news to Moses. What was Moses’ response? “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num 11:29). Moses responded this way because at the time of the Old Testament the Holy Spirit only anointed and empowered select people.
But towards the end of the Old Testament, Joel prophesied that Moses’ dream would one day become reality when saying, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28-29). Then, in the New Testament, Peter affirmed that Joel’s prophecy had reached fruition when he quoted it right after the mighty rushing wind blew across the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21). The time for all of God’s people to be empowered by the Holy Spirit had finally arrived.
This, of course, should speak volumes to us seeing as how we live in the same spiritual timeframe. Joel’s prophetic word was not about the end times (as I was once taught)—Joel’s word was about right now! God has already poured His Spirit out on all of His people and so we should live as a people baptized in His power.
Right now, we live in the most exciting movement of God yet! This is not some boring lull between the Early Church and the last days—this is the last days! Everything since Jesus’ resurrection has been considered the last days by the New Testament writers. And every last Christian has been empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out His will in these last days. Heavenly power and wisdom that was once reserved for select people before Pentecost is now given to all of God’s people indiscriminately.
Right now, we live in the most exciting movement of God yet! This is not some boring lull between the Early Church and the last days—this is the last days! Everything since Jesus’ resurrection has been considered the last days by the New Testament writers.Tweet
And Jesus shows us how we can live with the Holy Spirit’s power upon us, because He Himself was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Because of our Trinitarian beliefs, we often think that Jesus was able to do all of the supernatural things He did simply because He was God. But that’s not what our Bible is communicating to us. For when Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:4, 7-11), He began to immediately walk in similar ways that His Holy-Spirit-infused ancestors did.
If we conclude that Jesus was able to heal people, cast out demons, and raise the dead simply because He was God-in-flesh, then the rest of our Bible turns into blasphemy. After all, many of the things Jesus did were also done by others in the Bible both in the Old and New Testament. Just as Jesus multiplied bread and fish to feed the masses, so did Elijah tell a widow that her jar of flour and jug of oil would not go empty until a set time (1 Ki 17:14-16). Just as Jesus casted out demons and healed people, so He gave His twelve disciples the “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Mt 10:1). We can even note that as amazing as it was that Jesus raised the dead, He was not the only one to do so. We see Elijah (1 Ki 17:17-24), Peter (Ac 9:36-41) and Paul (Ac 20:8-12) all raise people from the dead. Furthermore, others throughout history even into modern times have reported the same kind of miracle.
So if Jesus did miracles simply because He was God, then we’d have to apply the same ideology to all of these other people—and that’s blasphemy, for they are not God. Rather than try to devise a whole new theology to understand Jesus’ power, it makes a whole lot more sense to simply believe what the Bible is communicating: Jesus is fully God and fully man and the Holy Spirit’s role in His life was to empower Him, just as the Holy Spirit had done to others throughout the Old Testament.
If we understand that Jesus and His followers operate in the power of the Spirit, we won’t be super confused when we see people do even greater things than Jesus did, just as Jesus said we would (Jn 14:12). Granted, we don’t even know everything Jesus did (Jn 21:25), so who even knows for sure when we’re doing something that He didn’t?
When I learned about the power of the Holy Spirit in college, I became very open and zealous for spiritual gifts. Since then I have seen the gifts at work in close friends and in myself. I have seen people impossibly healed. I have casted out a demon. I have had spiritual dreams. I have had convicting visions that left me in tears. I have watched the Holy Spirit manifest powerfully in the people around me. I’ve heard beautiful choruses of tongues sang by church members all around me.
A Christianity lacking these kinds of testimonies is a Christianity lacking the mission of the church. God grants every one of His followers some kind of spiritual gift, with the possibility of anointing us with even more gifts as time goes on; for Paul told us to, “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor 12:31), which implies that we might receive them as we press in for more.
If our churches don’t leave space for the spiritual gifts of God to be practiced, we will find ourselves attending a gathering that is not much different than anything the rest of the world could put on. Likewise, we’ll de-empower the people of God by taking away the work that God Himself has anointed them to do, and put all the pressure on the pastor instead. We’ll expect them to do things that they spiritually cannot do and relieve ourselves of the responsibility and duty that God has called us to.
A church without space for the Holy Spirit has effectively quenched the Spirit. And perhaps that’s part of the reason why church gatherings continue to thin out. Lots of people believe in something spiritual, but they’re not finding it in our gatherings.
But when we make space for spiritual gifts to be practiced, glimpses of resurrection life break through and people change. For it is only the Holy Spirit who can change us in the first place. And without Him, all of our promises cannot find fruition.