Through the years I have found that the charismatic church greatly limits the purpose for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit is often limited to what took place on the day of Pentecost, thereby limiting the work of the Holy Spirit to enable one to preach in power and perform signs and wonders. Unfortunately, many churches and networks build their whole movement on just signs, operations of the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
However, when we unpack the implications of Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you," we realize that the Acts narrative illustrates much more than just signs and wonders. The purpose of the Holy Spirit is also to give us wisdom to practically carry out and implement the will of God on the earth. One of the greatest tragedies in the global Pentecostal church is the lack of knowledge of the applied Word of God through wisdom and strategic implementation. We need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to know how to navigate the troubled waters during this present crisis!
My friend, Jeff Reed, inspired me to write this article with his important encyclical on global Pentecostalism (see bild.org).
First of all, one of the manifestations of the Spirit is the word (or fragment) of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). The word of wisdom is not just a prophecy, or healing and miracles. The gift of wisdom is broader and has to do with making prudent decisions for the future. This supernatural gift is connected to problem-solving ability. Unfortunately, most Christians think the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost only to grant us the power to move in miracles and speak in tongues (Acts 1:8). However, a closer look at how the church walked out in the power of the Spirit in the Acts narrative illustrates that His power was also manifested through supernatural wisdom and strategies.
7 Examples of the Spirit of Wisdom and Strategy in the Book of Acts
- Wisdom and strategy are illustrated through the boldness of speech. Peter and the apostles demonstrated this in spite of the fact they lacked traditional Jewish training. Acts 4:13 says: "When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were illiterate and uneducated men, they marveled. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." Hence, they walked with Jesus and were empowered by His Spirit, which produced wisdom inside of them.
- Acts 6 illustrates the challenge of Grecian widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:1-4 says:
Now in those days, as the disciples were multiplied, there was murmuring among the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution. So the twelve called the multitude of disciples together and said, "It is not reasonable for us to leave the word of God and serve tables. Brothers, look among yourselves for seven men who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint over this duty. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
Thus, the Spirit of God granted wisdom to Peter and the apostles to know how to deal with ethnic inequality, which resulted in an inequitable distribution of food. In Acts, we find that every challenge was an opportunity for God to solve a problem and bring the church to another level of effectiveness. The result of solving this problem was significant! Acts 6:7 says, "So the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples grew rapidly in Jerusalem, and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Never focus on the problems you face; focus on receiving the solutions. With every problem there is an opportunity for you to go to another level of maturity and responsibility. In life, people are usually remunerated commensurate to the level of problems they solve.
- The wisdom of the Spirit came upon Stephen as he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 6:8-10 says, "Now Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then some men rose up...disputing with Stephen. But they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke." This passage connects faith, power and wisdom together as a mark of being Spirit-filled.
- The wisdom of the Spirit was demonstrated through the Antioch elders as they heard from the Spirit to release Paul and Barnabus as apostles to the Gentile world.
Acts 13:1-4 says the following:
"Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers... As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit..."
When the leaders of the early church created space for God to speak to them through fasting, worship and prayer, the strategy for the first missionary movement was imparted to them.
- The first general council of the apostles discerned God's mind through the Spirit. The following passage is the conclusion of the first-ever general council of the church. This council was called in order to determine the standing of non-Jews, who expressed faith in the Messiah. The question being settled was the basis for the books of Galatians and Hebrews. They address why Gentile believers did not need to be circumcised in order to be saved. Acts 15:28-29 says as follows:
For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to put on you no greater burden than these necessary things: Abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.
Thus, this illustrates how the apostles and elders spent considerable time in dialogue so they could discern the mind of God through the Spirit. This is why they ended this important council by saying, "It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit." If it weren't for the strategic mind of the Spirit being manifested to the early church, then the gospel would have been mixed with required adherence to the ceremonial laws of Moses.
- The Spirit guided Paul through his missionary endeavors. Acts 16:6-10 shows how the Holy Spirit led Paul and forbade him from going into certain parts of the world when on his missionary journey. It shows that the Spirit of God would not allow Paul to prematurely preach in the province of Asia but instead directed him to preach in Western Europe. Eventually, Paul planted a burgeoning church planting movement in Asia Minor in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19).
- The Spirit's strategic function as taught by Jesus: The gospels give us a totally different picture of the function of the Holy Spirit than the typical contemporary charismatic caricature. The following passages show how the Holy Spirit is not merely some force, impersonal presence or energy that grants us good feelings and supernatural abilities. Rather, God the Spirit is the third person in the Trinity.
In John 14:15-17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of truth." The fact that He is referred to as the Spirit of truth illustrates that He does not only embody the power gifts. Rather, the Holy Spirit's primary role is to disclose wisdom and strategy, and illuminate truth to the church. He is not just relegated to biblical truth, but truth as it relates to every problem, challenge and situation, which affects all of life.
In John 14:25-27, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the counselor who gives wise advice. He also functions as a teacher who brings the Word of God to our remembrance. Thus, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom in proportion to the amount of the Word of God that has been imprinted on our hearts. In the context of this passage, we also see that having His wisdom is a prerequisite for walking in the peace of our Lord.
In John 15:7-8 we see that bearing much fruit proves you are a disciple. This amazing passage illustrates the fact that Jesus expects His followers to be effectively related to their earthly endeavors and assignments despite the challenges they would have to face in the world.
In John 16:13-15, Jesus again referred to Him as the Spirit of truth who tells us about things to come. This is because wisdom has to do with knowing and being prepared for what we need to do in the future.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, the apostle Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit enables us to enter into the mind and truth of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 Paul writes, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." The Holy Spirit enables believers to connect to the Creator of the universe and even understand the deep things of God. Verse 11 says the following:
For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? Likewise, no one knows the things of God, except the Spirit of God.
Consequently, the Spirit of God is the bridge to the wisdom of God in this natural world! Paul goes on to say in verses 15-16, "'But he who is spiritual judges all things. Yet he himself is not judged by anyone. For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." This amazing section of Scripture teaches us that believers have a monopoly on the mind of God. The world does not have the access we do because they lack the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 4:3-4). This access to the mind of God is not only to understand the Bible, but also refers to having the wisdom to walk out our God-given assignment in this world.
As we conclude this article we should realize that true Christ-followers not only have the power of Christ inside of them, they have the mind of Christ. This enables them to walk in wisdom, obtain strategy and apply knowledge correctly so they can be the greatest problem-solvers, cultural creators and influencers that the world has ever seen!
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