The Work and Evidence of the Holy Spirit!
By Raymond D. Sopp
I have two major concerns in regards to the general understanding in the Church today of the work and evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The first being that the work of the Holy Spirit has been trivialized by some by placing the emphasis on speaking in tongues. Some Christians say "THE" evidence of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. My second concern is what I perceive to be the ignoring of the Holy Spirit by some Christians in their lives and/or ministries. This is a subject that has concerned me for nearly as long as I have been a Christian.
Let us first take a look at the statement, "The evidence of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues." In John 16:5-15, Jesus describes the work and evidence of the Holy Spirit in very descriptive language, but conspicuously leaves out the term "speaking in tongues". If "THE" evidence of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues, would this not be the place for Jesus to mention it, if it was as important as we seem to make it today? Yet, not only does Jesus not place any emphasis on speaking in tongues -- He is silent altogether on the subject. However, Jesus did have much to say about the work and evidence of the Holy Spirit, which we will come back to later.
In contrast, the Apostle Paul had much to say about speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:1-40. Paul begins in verses 1-3, how we are to earnestly desire spiritual gifts for the purpose of edification, exhortation, and consolation of others. But in verse 4 Paul makes it crystal clear that speaking in tongues is for the edification of the speaker (self). Nevertheless, in verse 5, Paul also makes it clear that speaking in tongues has a role to play in our lives by saying, "I wish that you all spoke in tongues." Then Paul ties it all together as he places it in the right perspective when he says in verses 18-19, "I thank God I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue."
So why then speak in tongues at all? Speaking in tongues speaks not to men, but to God; and the one who speaks in tongues edifies himself (1 Corinthians 14:2&4). And again in Romans 8:26, "And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." There are times in my life I am so down that the only words I have are my groans, yet to know that God not only hears my groans, but understands -- brings me great comfort. Was there ever a time in your life when you did not have the words that would adequately express your gratitude toward God? How wonderful it is for me to be able to praise God in tongues -- knowing I am giving God a level of praise that mere words could not attain. At other times, I would find myself disturbed within my spirit about something, but I did not know what it was, yet by praying in tongues I found my relief.
Speaking in tongues is a real manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but it is not "THE" evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life. The emphasis should never be placed on speaking in tongues. As a matter of fact, as you read 1 Corinthians 14, you cannot help but come away with the feeling that speaking in tongues is, at best, the LEAST of all God's gifts. Nonetheless, I along with the Apostle Paul wish that all would speak in tongues. When it comes to my weakness, and when words begin to fail me -- I thank God for tongues.
Now to address my second concern of ignoring the Holy Spirit in our lives and/or ministry. Let me take you to Acts 1:4-5, "And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,' He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'" In these verses, Jesus commands His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but wait for the Holy Spirit.
Why did the disciples have to wait for the Holy Spirit? We find the answer in Acts 1:8, ". . . to receive power . . . to be My witnesses both in Jerusalem . . . and even to the remotest part of the earth." Notice that Jesus did not "ask" His disciples to wait, but "commanded" them to wait. Since Jesus commanded His disciples to wait, He must have had a very good reason for it. Yet, how many of us wait on the Holy Spirit today in our lives and/or ministries?
When we seek to be God's witness to someone, and/or seek to make disciples, we gather all kinds of books and other paraphernalia unto ourselves for help -- but do we wait on the Holy Spirit? Have we gotten so wrapped up in the techniques of witnessing, and discipleship, that we do not even think about asking the Holy Spirit to empower us anymore? When we go out to witness to others, do we concentrate on the witnessing handbook, or the Holy Spirit? Is your church lacking? Do you look for a book on church growth, or do you look for the Holy Spirit? It is important that we ask ourselves these questions or, as we will see, without the Holy Spirit all of our efforts will be in vain.
In John 16:7, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you." Did you hear what Jesus said!? It was good for Emmanuel (God with us) to go away so the Father could send us another Helper. Jesus placed such importance on the Holy Spirit, He actually said it was good that He was going away so we could have another helper -- the Holy Spirit -- in our lives. When Jesus, our physical Emmanuel (God with us) died on the cross, another Emmanuel took His place: the Holy Spirit. Now our Helper, the Holy Spirit, was no longer confined in one place as was the person of Jesus. Emmanuel, the Holy Spirit, was now omnipresent -- ever present with us -- wherever we may be. Our helper Emmanuel is now spirit, but no less real; and no less God than Jesus (God in flesh). Ignoring, or trivializing the Holy Spirit in our lives would be akin to the disciples ignoring, or trivializing Jesus in their lives.
Now let's look to the words of Jesus that we may begin to understand what the major work of the Holy Spirit is, which then must also be the major evidence of the Holy Spirit through the performance of said work. What is the work of the Holy Spirit that was so important that Jesus called it "an advantage?" John 16:8-13: "And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." Why were (are) these works of the Holy Spirit so important? Let's take a look at them one by one.
To convict the world of sin: Before you can have repentance -- before you can seek forgiveness -- you must first be convicted of sin. Therefore, God sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin in order to save us. The role of the Holy Spirit is to place us in a position to seek out God's forgiveness. That is why it is written, "No one can come to Me (Jesus) unless it has been granted him from the Father" (John 6:65). This is why without the Holy Spirit all of our efforts to witness are in vain as we, by ourselves, cannot even get someone to step one -- the conviction of sin. Although, through our eloquence and ability to persuade, we may be able to make someone feel "sorry" for sin, only the Holy Spirit can "convict" someone of sin. Human sorrow can bring mankind to a point of remorse and shame, but only TRUE conviction can bring mankind to a place of repentance. Therefore, even John the Baptist had to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to prepare the way for the Lord through the baptism of repentance. The road to Jesus can only be paved with repentance. There is no other way to God!
Did you ever get around some people, and for no reason at all, they hated you; and even just your presence made them uncomfortable? Well, that's evidence of the Holy Spirit being with you, and on you, because it's the Holy Spirit's job to make them uncomfortable -- to convict them of sin, hopefully unto salvation. In Acts 6:15 & 7:1-60, Stephen with a face of an angel, and filled with the Holy Spirit, caused the council to be cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth. In this case, the evidence of Stephen being filled with the Holy Spirit was their hatred of Stephen unto his death. Yet in reality the council were not gnashing their teeth at Stephen, but at the Holy Spirit.
To convict the world of righteousness: After we are convicted of sin, the next step on the road to our salvation begins with the Holy Spirit convicting us of our righteousness through our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. God would never convict us of sin unless He was also willing to convict us of righteousness. Therefore, God had a plan to give us His righteousness through the death, and resurrection, of His Son Jesus.
In my journey on the calvary road to the cross, I was so convicted of sin, that for about two years I could not go to sleep at night without taking a drink. There was no amount of consoling that could lift the weight of sin from me. There was nothing I could do to make up for my sins. There was nothing anyone could say to me to make me feel better. Until one day, I went to a church and I became convicted of righteousness by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit -- and I never looked back. It had nothing to do with what the pastor said -- I had heard it all before. There was nothing in this world that could lift the weight of sin off me -- nothing! The evidence of the Holy Spirit that night in that little church was not someone speaking in tongues -- it was I, being convicted of righteousness, and having the weight of my sins lifted from me.
To convict the world of judgment: Before I could be convicted of righteousness, sin had to be judged. Our God is a Holy God, and therefore, He cannot just wink at sin and say all is forgiven. There had to be a judgment brought upon my sin, and in my case, that judgment was totally laid on Jesus when He cried out, "My God -- My God -- Why have You forsaken me?" At that moment all of my (our) sins were judged and paid in full. We now have a choice: for our sins to be judged along with Satan's and go where he is going -- or our sins can be judged and paid in full at the cross with Jesus and go to heaven where He is; the choice is ours to make.
The world and Satan hate judgment -- only two ways to choose -- how dreadful! This world does not want to judge between right and wrong; whatever feels good should be our guide. I remember several years ago when I was at work, there came in the store a homeless beggar, looking for a handout. He went to each person in the store asking for a handout. He then came to me. I was just smiling at him, when out of nowhere, fear filled his face and he said to me, "I know who you are, leave me alone." I never said a word to him, nor had I ever seen him before that day; but as his fear gave way to panic, he almost went through the glass door trying to get away from me. Was he trying to get away from me or the Holy Spirit? The world is judged -- the demons know it. Why does mankind kick against the prompting of the Holy Spirit?
Finally the Holy Spirit's work is to lead us into all truth: It is the truth that will set us free. Not part truth and part error, but the whole truth. If we did not have the Holy Spirit to lead us, who would fill the void? If you guessed Satan, you would be right. We cannot be so foolish and prideful to think that on our own we could find the truth -- could we? Yes, at times we can be so foolish, and history proves that to be true. What seems right to man will bring death, but with the Holy Spirit's leading -- the truth will set men free.
"Wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit!" What sound advice Jesus gave us that day. The Holy Spirit came upon them as tongues of fire, and the same men who turned their backs on Jesus, suddenly became bold as lions! Yes, they came out talking in other languages, which the spectators miraculously all heard in their own native tongue. However, that's not the miracle we should be emphasizing as "THE" evidence of the Holy Spirit. We need to read a little farther to find the awesome miracle we should be emphasizing. Acts 2:37-41: "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart . . . and there were added that day about three thousand souls." You see, only the Holy Spirit could have saved three thousand souls that day. That's the evidence of the Holy Spirit I want to see, and emphasize, in my life and ministry.
Is saying "THE" evidence of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, trivializing His work? I think so, and now I hope you will agree with me. And for those who wish to leave the Holy Spirit out of their plans -- their lives -- my advice would be: wait in Jerusalem (or wherever you may be) until you receive the power from above, or all of your work will be in vain. Yes, you may still have a large church, but the work you are called to do, the salvation of souls, will be in vain without the Holy Spirit.
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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