Acts 8:14–17 (ESV) — 14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
How I desire that people would “receive the word of the God” and “receive the Holy Spirit”. What does this mean?
There are two streams of theology when it comes to the matter of the Holy Spirit’s work today: there is the “cessationist” view that believes that the gifts that we see in the book of Acts are no longer valid (they have ceased); and the “continualist” view that believes that these gifts have continued throughout history, even to today.
I am a “continualist”.
I believe that the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, continues to gift God’s people with supernatural abilities so that the mission of Jesus can continue today. To listen to my most recent sermon on the gifts of the Holy Spirit click here. In short, I believe that the “miraculous” gifts (healing, miracles, tongues etc) are for today.
But, this doesn’t mean that I believe that use of all of the gifts should be made the centre of our worship gathering. Gifts like healing, miracles and such like are clearly intended as “body life” gifts. They should be used in the context of relationship with other Christians. Tongues are both private prayer and a foreign language – neither of which are to be used publicly in a worship gathering.
Every week, on a Sunday morning, it’s my habit to pray for the gift of prophecy and the gift of teaching. These, Paul argues, are the “higher gifts” that we should earnestly desire (1 Corinthians 12:31). He then goes on to show us a more excellent way, which is hearts ablaze for the love of Jesus and His people (1 Corinthians 13).
So, the centre of our worship is around Jesus who loves us. The love of God is supremely manifest in the life and work of Jesus. 1 John 4:10 says “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins”. This is the gospel.
So, we give great prominence in our worship gatherings to the prophetic teachings about Jesus found in the New Testament. It is only by knowing the love of God, that we can know the life and joy that He brings.
We celebrate in song as we declare the goodness and love of God – the effect of the gospel on our lives is something worth singing about! It’s also the act of humble submission as we give God all of the fame for saving us.
We love in deed, because we are enabled to by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel. The good news that Jesus saved us despite our brokenness and inability to offer Him anything in return motivates us to serve and love without the need to want anything in return.
Postscript: there is a lot of hooha at the moment about a “Holy Spirit Conference” that is being held in town at the moment with an internationally known speaker that is bound to have some impact. During the services there will be phenomenon that will be questionable, and not a least bit confusing. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:40 “But all things should be done decently and in order.” .. and in 1 Corinthians 14:33 ”For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. For me these two verses settle it and so I can’t be part of that Conference.