GLEN ROSE, TEXAS
Sunday, August 12, 2001
Glen River Chapel
The Power of the Early Church
Bible Reading -
I Timothy 5:17 - Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
A church cannot be expected to rise above the spiritual level of its leaders.
A leader may have the fullness of God's Spirit within him, but he is not ready for ministry until the Holy Spirit is upon him in " power" .The apostles received the fullness of the Spirit after the resurrection of Christ. They were then given a test of obedience, followed by the power of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. This same pattern is seen in the life of Christ. He was "filled" with the Spirit at His baptism and then led by the Spirit into testing. He returned in the " power" of the Spirit, and the fame of His ministry spread throughout the entire region. The power of the Holy Spirit is the greatest force on earth - it is love.
WHY GOD CHOOSES UNLIKELY LEADERS
God often chooses the most unlikely candidates to be His leaders.
God's purpose is to demonstrate to the leaders and others that their power comes from Him and not from themselves.
Acts 4:13-14 - Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 14And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
This was the result when the people realized the power of the good work done in
making the lame man whole.
Paul affirms this fact:
- For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence.
I Corinthians 1:26-29
Even Paul's testimony was that he was most unlikely of all believers to be a leader in the Church.
Acts 8:3 - As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
THE LEAST, THE LITTLEST AND THE LAST
God has a way of choosing the least, the littlest and the last.
When God called Gideon to lead Israel out of bondage, this was his reply.
- And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my fatherís house.
When Saul was chosen to be king, he was amazed and asked:
- And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?
I Samue1 9:21
When Paul was ordained to be an apostle, he declared:
- For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
I Corinthians 15:9
God chose Israel when they were a little people group in the land.
- For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
Bethlehem was chosen as the birthplace of Jesus, and identified as Ēlittle",
- But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
When Saul was chosen by God to be king, Saul was little in his own eyes.
- And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?
I Samuel 15:17
Jesus' statement confirms that those who would be last will be first.
Matthew 19:30 - But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
THE SECRET OF A LEADER'S POWER
The power of a spiritual leader is the dunamis of the Holy Spirit upon his life.
There are three important phases of experiencing this power .
1. The first phase is to be indwelt and filled by the Holy Spirit.
The indwelling takes place at salvation
Rom. 8:16 - The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
As believers we are to be "filled" with the Spirit
Eph. 5:18 - And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
This command is in the present tense, which indicates continuous action.
Since God's Spirit already indwells out spirit this command would relate to our soul, which involves our mind, will, and emotions.
We receive the " filling" of the Holy Spirit by asking our Heavenly Father for it.
2. Once we are indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are to yield the members of our body to Him for His control.
- I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
3. The Holy Spirit will then direct us into a time of testing. The test involves thanking God for the test (1 Thess. 5:18), rejoicing in it (Phil. 4:4), and obeying the Word of God as directed by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
If we pass the test, we will receive the power (dunamis) of the Holy Spirit.
In preparation for this testing, God will give us sufficient grace to overcome. Grace is the desire and the power to do God's will.
He will also give us counsel and encouragement through the Scriptures, so we can respond to temptations as Jesus did by quoting the Scriptures, which are the sword of the Spirit.
To the degree that we pass the test, by thanking God for it, and rejoicing in it and obeying the Word through it, we experience the power of the Holy Spirit upon us.
We are then able to demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Notice how each of these elements is mentioned by Paul in his praise of the Macedonian believers.
He noted firstly, how ď the grace of God bestowed ď on them.
Then he explained how they went through " a great trial of affliction."
The result was that their joy and their love abounded through their generosity to other believers.
He related this directly to the power of the Holy Spirit upon them. ("To their power (dunamis) I bear record."
II Corinthians 8:1-3 - Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
THE TESTS THAT TURN "FILLING" INTO POWER
Jesus illustrated this 3-fold sequence in His own life and ministry .
The " filling" is pictured at His baptism.
He was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to face His test of obedience.
After successfully passing the test by quoting Scripture to Satan, He returned in the ď power" of the Spirit.
Luke 4:1-14 - And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
Notice that it was after He returned in the power of the Spirit that His ministry and fame spread throughout the region.
The pattern of testing after filling was also demonstrated among the Thessalonian believers.
They received the Holy Spirit at salvation.
- For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
I Thess. 1:5
They then went through testing
I Thess. 1:6 - And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
The result of passing the test with joy is described in
- We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; 4So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
II Thess. 1:3-4
We also see the 3-fold pattern in Creation.
When man was created, Adam was created in the image of God. The breath of life was breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul.
After this, Adam was given a test of obedience -Gen. 2:16-17 -
Adam failed the test and lost the potential that he could have had when he would have eaten from the tree of life.
Israel is also a type of the 3-fold sequence.
After coming out of Egypt (a type of the world) the cross the Red Sea (which is likened to a baptism). The nation was given tests of obedience in the wilderness. They failed these tests and perished without reaching the promised land.
The same was true in Canaan. After their "baptism" through the Jordan River, they were given a series of test to conquer the land of Canaan. To the degree that they were obedient, they had power to conquer. When they disobeyed, they lost that power.
After receiving the Spirit at salvation, every believer should expect to go
through tests of tribulation.
II Timothy 3:12 - Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
If we pass the test by thanking God for the trials, rejoicing in them and obeying the Word, we will experience the dunamis of the Holy Spirit.
A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF TRIALS
The Apostle Paul discovered this power of God's Spirit when he asked God to remove an infirmity from Him. Paul understood that it was through this very infirmity that he would experience the power of the Holy Spirit, provided that he rejoiced in the infirmity .
Paul responded -II Corinthians 12:9 - And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Paul then identified 5 types of trials that will produce the power of Christ if we thank God for them and rejoice in what God can do through them.
- Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christís sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
II Corinthians 12:10
James begins his epistle with this important truth.
James 1:2-4 - My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Peter emphasized the importance of trials of obedience before receiving the glory of God's power .
- For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
I Peter 2:20-21
See also I Peter 4:12-14 - Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
The 1st century Christians took the spoiling of their goods with joy.
-For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
They knew that if they rejoiced in the distress of having their property damaged, they would experience a greater measure of the power of the Holy Spirit and with that power they would be able to accomplish significant things for God and for others. The eternal rewards of these achievements would be far more valuable than any earthly possessions they might have lost.
It is with this in mind that Paul declares:
- For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
HOW THE HOLY SPIRIT IS RECEIVED
The Holy Spirit enters the believer's life at salvation and bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Man also has a soul, and this soul must be filled with the Spirit.
This is accomplished by asking God for the filling of His Spirit -
-If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
In addition to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit in our soul, we need to have the control of the Holy Spirit in our bodily members so that we will walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
FIVE TESTS THAT PRODUCE POWER
II Corinthians 12:7-10 -And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christís sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
The five items in Paulís list are used by the Holy Spirit to bring about His power .
The Greek word for infirmities is astheneia. It means feebleness (of body or mind). By implication, it is a physical malady, disease or sickness. This will take place in every person's life, because we dwell in mortal bodies that will experience increasing disability .Yet even in this, Paul points out an important point :
-For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
II Cor. 4:16
The Greek word for reproaches is hubris. It refers to insults, verbal injury, slander, gossip, verbal abuse, scorn and ridicule. Reproach is painful and our natural tendancy is to react to it with equal venom. Yet Scripture warns us about "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing; but contrawise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing"
- Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
I Peter 3:9
This word simply describes the needful burdens in life that must be carried out in fulfilling our personal and work responsibilities.
A persecutor is one who stalks his victim like a predator and creates trouble and reaction wherever possible. Paul's persecutor's followed him from city to city.
The Greek word for distress is stenochoria which is a dire calamity or exteme affliction. It would include calamities, anguish, grief, and great sorrow.
HOW TO PASS THE TEST OF OBEDIENCE
We have already noted that we pass the test of these trials and tribulations if we obey the command of the Lord to thank God for them and rejoice in them while remaining faithful to the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The instruction of Philippians 4:4 is not a suggestion for better living. It is a double command -
Phil. 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
The very will of God is to thank God in whatever experience He allows.
- In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
I Thess. 5:18
When tribulations came upon the lst century Christians, they rejoiced in the hope of experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.
With that power, the Holy Spirit would be able to accomplish mighty things in and through them that would result in eternal rewards.
This was the message that Paul gave them.
-By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Satan loves to take the trials that God allows for increased power and instead get us to murmur and complain about them. This is what happened to the nation of Israel in the wilderness.
God led them out of Egypt because they cried out to Him in their bondage.
But when they faced a new test, they were not thankful for what God had already done, nor did they cry out to God for His continued provision.
Instead they complained about their plight and murmured against Moses and Aaron.
Moses made it clear that their murmurings were not against him, but against God.
Exodus 16:8 -And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.
Paul warns that if a believer fails to rejoice in the trials that come, he will most likely respond in anger, wrath or malice. This will in turn give authority to Satan to bring about physical and spiritual destruction.
Observe his warnings -
Eph. 4:26-27 -Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil.
May the Apostle Paul's testimony of II Cor. 12:9 be ours as well.
II Cor. 12:9 - And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.