There some theologians who suggest that the Holy Spirit is not as active today as He was in the days of the Jerusalem church or of the apostles. This is a mistaken assumption on two levels. The first part of the mistaken belief concerns a misunderstanding of God and the position of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead. If the Scriptures state, “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6) then it must be true of the Holy Spirit also since He is God. The second part of the mistake involves a failure to account for the fact that it is the church that is not functioning the way the New Testament model describes, rather than the Holy Spirit ceasing certain aspects of His work. Therefore we could say that the reason why there is little evidence of the continuance of the work begun by the Holy Spirit in the early church is due to the fact that the modern church has lost its way. Modern Christianity is more concerned with superficial hype instead of Biblical order in the Holy Spirit.
Usually when one speaks of the functioning and ministry of the Holy Spirit the Gifts automatically spring to mind (and more precisely, Tongues). Those who deny that the Gifts of the Spirit are available today normally quote from 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”. They think that this text speaks of the cessation of the Gifts of the Spirit sometime back in history. There are problems with such an interpretation of these verses.
If the Gifts (usually tongues and prophecy) are no longer available to the church how are we to account for Knowledge? Since we cannot say that knowledge has ceased it is unwise to declare that any other Gift of the Spirit has. Also what is that “perfect” that causes these gifts to be put away? The usual answer from cessationists is, that when the canon of Scripture was completed the gifts ceased to be applicable. If this is really the case then another question has to be answered, “Which Bible version are we talking about?” For if that “perfect” is the Bible itself then why does the modern church continue to need newer versions that claim to be better than the previous one. Since there are over 400 versions of The Bible or New Testament in circulation which one can we say is the perfect one? The “perfect” therefore cannot be the Holy Bible itself, it must be something or someone else.
The Scriptures inform us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). This being so we can easily see the reason why Paul states, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). The gifts of the Spirit will continue to be available to the Church until the end of the Church Age – that is, until the day when Christ comes for His own, probably what is referred to as that “perfect”. Until then we need the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches. There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that anything to do with the Holy Spirit ceased at the end of the first century.
The Holy Spirit has always been active in all of God’s dealings with man. We see Him first at the Beginning moving “upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), and we see Him active still at the closing hours of world history, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). In between the pages of the Bible we see His activity in the lives of both Old and New Testament saints (including that of the Lord Jesus Christ).
The Lord Jesus, when speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, said, “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11). Is not the Holy Spirit still doing these things? He is still calling men and women to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5), “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, He cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, the disciples preached with power, anointing and authority, resulting in the salvation of 3,000 people (Acts 2). From then onwards men such as Stephen, Philip, and Paul were mightily used by the Holy Spirit. We cannot believe that the book of Acts closes with the cessation of the manifestation of the Spirit.
Jesus promised all believers, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13-14). Again, has the Holy Spirit stopped doing any of these things? He still applies the Word of God to those who are willing to listen to His voice. Even in the final book of the New Testament He is still speaking to the Church of Christ of the Last Days, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7).
The Holy Spirit is still doing exactly what Jesus said that He would do. He still comes to those who ask for Him, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13). Through His work the Redemptive benefits of salvation in Christ are still mediated to us, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:14-16), “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). He is still drawing our hearts to seek the Lord in love, prayer, commitment and worship, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24), “He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14).
The Holy Spirit not only assists us in our praying, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18), “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost” (Jude :20), “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26), but He also puts within the heart of every committed saint the desire for the Second Coming of Christ, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
He is active in the hearts and lives of believers as He encourages them to separate from sin and the world, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13), “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).
The modern day church has become over organised that it has boxed God in with its formalism, and driven His Holy Spirit out in favour of tradition. If the Holy Spirit does not appear to be functioning today as He was in the days of the apostles it is because He is being restricted by unbelief and religion. To deny the availability of the Spirit in any manner is to grieve Him away. Paul warns us “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20). To suppress or reject the Holy Spirit in this way must result in the loss of His presence in our lives and churches. Our unfaithfulness to God causes His Spirit to leave us to our gimmicks, programmes, and schemes to make it look like we have God’s power and anointing. A life or church without the moving of the Spirit of God is bankrupt and useless to the Lord. In fact the truth is, we far from accepting one of Jesus’ first promises about the Holy Spirit, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life … In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (John 4:14, 7:37-39).
The Father and the Lord Jesus Christ still want us to have the fulness of the Holy Spirit in our lives individually and as a Church. We are still in need of His power, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16). What Paul prescribes for the Ephesian Church is still available to us, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Therefore there has been no diminishing of any aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is the same God today as He has always been.