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The Spirit and the Gospel

The Spirit & the Gospel

How often do you think about the ministry of the Spirit in the advancement of the gospel? I believe that all too often His ministry is forgotten. I don’t believe it’s by design, but it tends to happen over time by the nature of His unseen ministry -- unseen at least with our natural eyesight.

My first reading of the Gospel of Luke brought this matter to my attention. In the first four chapters, each of the major characters involved in the storyline of the gospel experienced the Spirit’s power and leading. First, Luke 1:15 gives us an important truth about John the Baptist, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” As Pastor Sunday said, “The Holy Spirit can operate on an infant.” Have we considered this when we think about our children and the children we minister to?

Second, the angel Gabriel told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Pastor DeHaan said that here we see Mary would experience the protective presence of God. The result: salvation is from God for Jesus is fully human and fully divine. We can approach the throne of grace with confidence for Jesus understands our weaknesses but he was without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus did this, as the early church fathers said, for us and our salvation.

Third, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, “was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:41) and pronounced a blessing on Mary. What a remarkable passage! The Holy Spirit causes a baby in its mother’s womb and the mother to rejoice in the presence of Christ – while Jesus is yet in his mother’s womb! Do we welcome the gospel of Christ with joy? (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

Fourth, Zechariah “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Luke 1:67). In verses 68-79 we see his prophecy was in the form of a song of praise to the Lord. So the filling of the Spirit enables people to worship God. Have you ever considered the role of the Spirit in worship? If you haven’t, maybe that is what is missing in your worship. We need the enabling of the Spirit to help us praise God in a manner he desires.

Fifth, we read of Simeon, “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus... Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Luke 2:25-28). Notice how the Spirit prompted him to move to the right place. The Spirit also “moved” Simeon to praise God. Here we see again the importance of the Spirit’s anointing, leading, and empowering. Think of what Simeon would have missed out on if he had not been sensitive to the Spirit.

Finally, in Luke 3 and 4 we see the Spirit’s ministry in the life and ministry of Jesus. Luke 3:22 tells us “the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove” at his baptism. The pouring out of the Spirit on Jesus bore great significance. Philip Ryken puts it like this, “The Spirit made a public declaration that he was with Jesus for ministry.”

Notice the Spirit’s ministry in and through Christ in Luke 4. In 4:1-2 we read, “Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Later we are told, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.” (4:14-15) Finally, in 4:18 Jesus applied these words to himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.” The Spirit enabled him to preach good news, proclaim freedom, and release the oppressed (4:18-19). Philip Ryken makes a point we all need to hear: “If Jesus depended on the Spirit, how much more should we rely on his glorious influence.”

Do we walk in dependence on the Spirit? Is our work, service, and worship done with the enabling power of the Spirit? If we neglect the Spirit, should we be surprised when we end up struggling in these areas? The Apostle Paul summarized the issue with these words, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) The flip side of this statement appears in Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

I close by asking you to meditate on my paraphrase of a statement made by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the anointing of the Holy Spirit: God giving power, an enabling, through the Spirit, to believers in order for them to do their work and worship in a manner that lifts it beyond human efforts and endeavors to a position in which the believer is being used by the Spirit and becomes the channel through which the Spirit works. By God’s grace let us all seek to be used by God in this way.

Elder Jim Gordon