Lesson No.4 - Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Key to lesson No.4

After teaching you about the discernment of the words of false prophecy, let us now learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in this Lesson. In Lesson No.3, we have studied about the ministry of "Lying Prophets" who prophesy in the Name of Jesus Christ according to their own imaginations which are contrary to the written Word of God. However, in this Lesson, let us study about the ministry of the Holy Spirit under the New Covenant which has been misunderstood by many of us. When on the one side a certain group of people misuses the gift of prophecy or the prophetic ministry, yet, on the other side, another group of people denies the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

Some time ago, I was led by the Holy Spirit to deal with certain doctrines propagated by a servant of God, namely Alexander Seibel of Germany through a book titled “The Church subtly deceived” which was published by Gospel Literature Service (GLS), Mumbai, India.  The salient points of his controversial book are summarized below:

 

1.  

The Pentecostal or the Charismatic Movement is an occult movement.

2.  

The Holy Spirit baptism is not an experience separate from conversion.  

3.  

The Holy Spirit is not transmitted through the laying on of hands.  

4.  

The direct speaking of the Holy Spirit through human beings or the direct use of human body and mind is a fall-out of the spirit medium of the occult.  If God really speaks more or less normally today through such prophecies or visions or dreams, then this becomes the present Word of God and the Bible becomes the past Word….  

5.  

Signs and wonders were mainly confined to the Apostolic Age.  The apostles knew the Lord after the flesh, but this particular time is long past (2 Cor.5: 16)  

 

As led by the Holy Spirit, I had dealt with the above controversial issues concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my letter to the GLS.  I quote below some excerpts from my letter to the GLS:  

 

(1)   The Pentecostal or the Charismatic Movement is an occult movement.

 

The only litmus test to prove the ministry of any servant of God is whether Christ Jesus is glorified or not (John 16:14).  If people are not saved in the Name of Jesus Christ but in any other name or if people are not brought to the saving knowledge of Christ through His Cross, the evangelist or the minister concerned is definitely a false prophet (Acts 13:6).  If the Devil is the author of salvation through the Blood of Jesus Christ, then his kingdom is divided against itself.  If the so-called false prophets cast out evil spirits, bring about divine healing and miracles in Jesus’ Name, it means “Satan casts out Satan” (Matt.12: 25-30).  Of course, there may be some servants of God in our midst who prophesy, cast out demons and do wonders in Jesus’ Name.  But if they do not the will of God, Jesus would tell them “I never knew know you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” It is thus seen that this passage is applicable only to those who do not do the will of His Father.  This passage does not say that a false prophet performs miracles in Jesus’ Name.  In this context, it is worth meditating on Acts 19:13-16 wherein the instance of the Jewish exorcists and the seven sons of Sceva taking the name of Jesus to cast out evil spirits is mentioned.  What happened to them?  The evil spirits overpowered them.  This shows very clearly that those who practice occultism or who do not proclaim the gospel of Christ cannot cast out evil spirits even in the Name of Jesus.

 

If the demons are cast out; people are delivered of sicknesses through miracles in Jesus’ Name during Pentecostal or Charismatic crusades, then the ministers concerned should not be branded as the end-time false prophets who work miracles. Of course, there may be some aberrations in the Pentecostal or the Charismatic movement but we should not paint the entire movement with the same brush.  In Faridabad, near Delhi, once a month, some Roman Catholic priests are holding all-night prayer meetings where many people are delivered of sicknesses, evil spirits, etc. in Jesus’ Name (and not in the name of Mother Mary); they preach the gospel of Christ.  Jesus Christ is being glorified during this crusade.  

 

Let us note that the end-time false prophets or teachers would not perform signs or miracles in Jesus’ Name but in the names of the dragon, of the beast and of the false prophet (Rev.16: 13-14).  Anti-Christ will come in his own name and not in the Name of Jesus Christ.

 

While I agree with Alexander Seibel that during the end-time there will be a falling away of the church (2 Thes.2: 3) “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils”, I cannot agree to his doctrine that the whole movement whether Pentecostal or Charismatic is a false one, though there are some aberrations in such movements.  You have referred to the ministry of Paul Yonggi Cho, the pastor of the largest church in Seoul, South Korea.  I had witnessed the ministry of this dear servant of God in Delhi a few years ago.  In fact, Jesus Christ was glorified during the crusade.  The Devil was never glorified. However, the dark side of his ministry as focused by you in your book concerns certain doctrines taught by him, especially the Law of the Fourth Dimension, which is stressed by people practicing occult science.

 

The Lord had revealed to me about 20 years ago that the Devil would cause the people of God to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge (Gen.3: 3-6) with the result that messages, which would appeal to the senses, would be propagated.  Such messages would be at variance with the message of the Cross.  The Law of the Fourth Dimension is one of such messages emanating from the tree of the knowledge and has nothing to do with the message of the Cross.   

 

(2)       The Holy Spirit baptism is not an experience separate from conversion 

 

True, when a person is saved through the Blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into his heart because the Blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not separable under the New Covenant.  But, at the same time, the Holy Spirit baptism is the next step in the life of a believer, which makes him a minister of God.  Under the Old Testament, priests, kings and prophets were anointed with the holy oil before they took upon their respective offices.  Similarly, the disciples of Christ Jesus ought to be equipped for God’s work by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

I agree that the Pentecost like the death of Christ Jesus on the cross for salvation cannot be repeated and that we have been baptized by one Spirit into one body.  But, let us bear in mind that the people of God need to be filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit so that they can speak “the word of God with boldness”  (Acts 4:31).  In the 4th Chapter of Acts, we find a group of people (who had been saved through the Blood of Jesus) raising their voice in one accord and praying to God.  “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.  This passage shows that we need the filling or anointing or baptism of the Holy Spirit for effective ministry or witnessing.

An unsaved person accepts Jesus as the Saviour and the Holy Spirit comes into his heart.  The next step for him is to witness to others for which he needs power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ baptizes him in His Spirit.  This is not a mere emotional experience but a spiritual experience to be received by faith and not by sight or by any evidence.

In the 8th chapter of Acts, we read that the people of Samaria who had believed the gospel preached by Evangelist Philip received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John prayed for them, though the Holy Spirit had already arrived on the day of Pentecost.

In the 9th chapter of Acts, we read about the conversion of Paul when the Holy Spirit met him.  After his repentance, Paul was praying (Vs.11).  When Ananias laid his hands on Paul, the latter received his sight as well as the Holy Spirit.  Paul received the Holy Spirit baptism so that he might bear His Name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (Vs.15).  The Holy Spirit had already arrived on the day of Pentecost.  But Paul received the Holy Spirit baptism in an individual manner through a human vessel so that he could be a minister to the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel.

Believers receive this experience either through prayers or through the laying on of hands by the ministers of God so that they become the New Testament ministers.  This experience is to be received by faith and not by sight.  If some people receive this experience in a supernatural way accompanied by the sign of tongues, we cannot judge that they have received “another Christ” or a false spirit  (Acts 10:46 and 19:6).  Of course, we are supposed to try the spirits.  But, at the same time, we are also not supposed to judge anything before the Lord comes.

I do agree that the life of a disciple of Christ Jesus has to be surrendered to the dominion of the Holy Spirit or to be filled by the Holy Spirit in every area of his life.  Daily he has to deny himself, take his cross and follow his Master.

Let us now turn to the 12th chapter of I Corinthians.  This is an important passage dealing with the gifts of the Spirit. “Now there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (Vs.6-7). The operations of the Holy Spirit are diverse.  We cannot dictate Him to baptize His people in His Spirit in ways chosen by us.  He may baptize some people silently without any outward sign.  He may baptize some people with some supernatural sign or with evidence of tongues.  Please note the verse, beginning with “But”.   The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one of us for the profit of all.  What do we mean by “the manifestation of the Spirit” whereby the gifts of the Spirit are distributed by the Holy Ghost amongst His people?  It cannot be the initial working of the Holy Spirit in conversion of a soul.  It is definitely a subsequent experience in the Spirit realm for equipping His people for the ministry with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  

 

(3)     The Holy Spirit is not transmitted through the laying on of hands.  

 

I have already quoted sufficiently from the book of Acts to prove that the Holy Spirit baptism is given through prayers or through the laying on of hands of His holy servants.  Let us read an important passage from the 8th chapter of Acts (14-24).  When Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy spirit was given, he offered money to the apostles so that any one on whom he laid his hands he might receive the Holy Spirit.  May be, in the occult field, the evil spirit is transmitted through the medium of human body.  This has nothing to do with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  

 

(4)    The direct speaking of the Holy Spirit through human beings or the direct use of human body and mind is a fall-out of the spirit medium of the occult.  If God really speaks more or less normally today through such prophecies or visions or dreams,  then this becomes the present Word of God and the Bible becomes the past Word….

 

The Holy Spirit through the members of the body of operates the gift of prophecy Christ. The Holy Spirit also gives them visions and dreams, when necessary.  If the Holy Spirit operates the gift of prophecy through a member of the body of Christ; such prophecy is always in accordance with God’s revealed Word.  The Holy Spirit never contradicts His Word because the Holy Spirit does not speak on His own but conveys the message of Christ Jesus. (John 16:13-14).

 

The Holy Spirit does speak to His people and gives them visions.  In Acts 9:4-6, the Holy Spirit talks to Saul.  In Acts 9:10-16, the Holy Spirit calls Ananias by name in a vision and talks to him like a friend.  In the same chapter, the Holy Spirit gives a vision to Peter three times.  In Acts 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit talks through the ministry of prophets, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”.  Paul gets a vision in the night (Acts 16:9-10). In Acts 18:9, the Holy Spirit speaks to Paul in a night vision, “Be not afraid but speak, and hold not thy peace.”  In the night, the Holy Spirit stands by the side of Paul and says, “Be of good cheer, Paul for as you have testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11).

 

The Lord is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  The same Lord who worked signs and miracles through the hands of apostles and who saved multitudes during the early church period continues to do the same in the human history and through the ages. He is no respecter of persons and is not partial to the present-day ministers.  Who is presenting “another Jesus”?  Is it Alexander Seibel who says that the age of signs and miracles is past, and who presents a Jesus who is devoid of power and authority?

  

The visions and dreams given by the Holy Spirit to the early apostles had not taken the place of the Word i.e. the Old Testament books, which were only available at that time.  The visions and dreams given to them were in furtherance of the ministry of the gospel.  Does Alexander Seibel want to present the Holy Spirit as a silent spectator not interested in performing signs and miracles for the propagation of the gospel or as an idol who is dumb?  Did the gift of prophecy and the visions and dreams, which were in operation during the early apostolic period, become the past Word then? Why should Seibel raise a hue and cry when the present day ministers of God have had similar visions and dreams in furtherance of the advancement of the gospel?  Of course, these days, the servants of God who have had experienced such visions and dreams do glorify in such visions and revelations about which Paul said in 2 Cor.12: 1, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.  I will come visions and revelations of the Lord……….Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities” (Vs.5).  Though, I agree with him, such visions and revelations should not contradict the Word of God, yet we cannot brush aside all such experiences as devilish.  

 

(5)   Signs and wonders were mainly confined to the Apostolic Age.  The apostles knew  the Lord after the flesh, but this particular time is long past (2 Cor.5: 16)

 

Alexander Seibel presents a truncated body of Christ i.e. another body of Christ which is different from the one revealed in the gospels, Epistles and the book of Revelation.  According to him, the foundation of apostles and prophets had already been laid once for all during the apostolic period and the same foundation cannot be laid time and again.  Please note that Paul wrote to the saints in Ephesus that they were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets who were indeed responsible for preaching the gospel to them, and for their further spiritual growth.  Paul in the same Epistle to the Ephesians says that Christ “gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph.4: 10-12). The same Paul writes to the Corinthians, “God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (I Cor.12: 28).

 

Paul had a vision of the body of Christ, which consisted of all these ministers.  Today, Alexander Seibel presents a truncated body of Christ i.e. a body sans apostles and prophets, and says that the signs and wonders were mainly confined to the apostolic age.  Please note that the people of God are built on the same foundation of apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ being the Chief Corner Stone. However, the offices of these two kinds of ministers i.e. apostles and prophets are occupied by those members of the body of Christ who live today.  An office can never be kept vacant.  For instance, different people are occupying the office of the President or the Prime Minister of a nation during different periods.  In our midst, there are indeed apostles and prophets whom you may not recognize.  The same Holy Spirit appoints appropriate persons to these ministries.  Alexander Seibel claims to be an evangelist.  If the ministries of apostles and prophets were to cease, the evangelistic ministry held by him today would have also ceased to exist.

 

According to Alexander Seibel, the qualification for an apostle was his knowing the Lord after the flesh as per 2 Cor.5: 16.  If knowing the Lord according to the flesh was the only qualification of an apostle, what about the apostles who knew Him in the Spirit after His ascension into the heaven? Let Alexander Seibel read the church history to know about the apostles raised by God during different periods.  If Seibel tries to argue that writing of the Epistles was also a qualification of an apostle, then what about other apostles like Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Simon the Zealot who had not written a single epistle?

 

Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote many epistles to the churches, which existed in those days, considering the peculiar problems faced by them, and not out of his experience of knowing the Lord after the flesh.  However, the four gospels were written by the other 4 apostles as inspired by the Holy Spirit, giving an account of what they had seen and heard as eyewitnesses to the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Except those 4 gospels, nobody else after them or even Paul did write any further gospel.  These days, no apostle is supposed to write “another gospel”. However, the apostles and prophets who are the foundation of the body of Christ are inspired by the same Holy Spirit to counsel and warn the churches of God today. If the present day ministers of God or the people of God had listened to them, the churches would not have found themselves in such a despicable situation as it is today.  Their counsels and warnings cannot be termed as the present Word or any new revelation.

 

These days, we hardly recognize the apostles appointed by God in the first place, the prophets in the second place and the teachers in the third place.  It is a pity that we recognize only the evangelists, the pastors and the ministries of healing and miracles, which are assigned a place just below the three kinds of ministers.  We have changed the order of preference set by the Holy Spirit arbitrarily today.

 

Alexander Seibel has mentioned about the out-of-body experiences of some servants of God.  We cannot completely rule out all such experiences as unscriptural or triggered by the devil because Paul did have such an experience in 2 Cor.12.  But Paul chose not to glory in such an experience.  Similarly, those who have had such experiences should not glory in such experiences as it leads to pride in their life.  They should share such experiences and revelations only for the propagation of the gospel or for the edifying of the body of Christ.

 

Alexander Seibel has quoted some specific instances of supernatural experiences from the ministries of some servants of God like Benny Hynn, which were, according to him, at variance with the Word of God. He has referred to the backsliding of Kathryn Kuhlman, a woman of God who is not alive today.  I read about this dear servant of God in the book written by Benny Hinn that she had repented and forsaken the sin of living with a divorced man before her death.  Today Seibel is pointing his accusing finger at a woman who had been forgiven by God.

 

While I agree with Seibel that we should not be guided solely by the visions and dreams, I am of the opinion that if such visions and dreams convey divine warning and counsel, we should not ignore them. The Lord does talk to His people not only through visions and dreams but also through the other members of the body of Christ.  No individual minister should rely upon his own revelations from the Word but should the other members of His body confirm the same.  The New Testament ministry is a body ministry and is different from the individual ministries of the Old Testament priests and prophets.

 

Exercise No.1

 

(1)    The apostles and prophets exist today. Is this statement true or wrong?  Please justify your answer with reasons.

(2)    The gifts of the Holy Spirit, which were imperfect, are no longer in operation because we have received the Bible, the perfect thing.  Is this statement true or wrong? Please justify your answer with reasons.

(3)    Your pastor says that he has the apostolic ministry and that there are no apostles today.  How will you answer him?

(4)    An evangelist preaches that since he has the gift of prophecy,  the ministry of prophets came to an end.  How will you answer him?

(5)     Please mention any two important functions of an apostle. Please quote the relevant Bible verses either from the epistles or the Acts.