We CAN do what is pleasing to God. In the previous blog we saw how God had promised in the Old Testament that in the new age of the Spirit (under the New Covenant He would initiate with His people) He would motivate and empower His people to live for Him. That age came into being on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the early disciples. From that moment on they were changed. Later on there were disciples in other places who also experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon them. They too were to experience God’s motivating and empowering power in their lives.
OUTPOURINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFTER THE DAY OF PENTECOST
An Outpouring Of The Holy Spirit In Samaria. We read in Acts 8 that after the martyrdom of Stephen by stoning, the church in Jerusalem was persecuted and all the disciples except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. One of those disciples was Philip who was one of the seven men chosen to ensure that there was fair treatment of Hellenistic widows in the daily food distribution. The seven had to be “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom”. Philip went to the city of Samaria and proclaimed Christ to them. There was a great response to his preaching and many people were set free of evil spirits and others were healed. Many heard Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and were baptized.
Word of this believing response to the gospel message through Philip came to the apostles in Jerusalem. They sent Peter and John, who prayed for these Samaritan disciples to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Luke records the reason why. Acts 8:16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). The outcome of their visit? As the apostles laid their hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit. It was another pouring out of the Spirit on believers though in a different locality. However it maintained continuity with the church in Jerusalem as it took place through the laying on of the hands of the apostles.
An Outpouring Of The Holy Spirit In Ephesus. The apostle Paul came to Ephesus where he found a number of disciples of Jesus. We are not told why he asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” However it appeared that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit. That prompted Paul to ask them, “Into what then were you baptized?” They replied that they had been baptised into John’s baptism. Paul explained that the baptism John offered was an anticipation for the coming Messiah, the Christ, in whom they were to trust. Paul would have been able to tell them that the Messiah had come. They could now be baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. We read what happened, Acts 19:6-7 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Our Own “Pentecost” Experience. We have seen that the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit was on the Day of Pentecost. This fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. However we have also seen that there were later outpourings of the Spirit such as in Samaria and Ephesus. Various outpourings of the Spirit have occurred in various places and in various times throughout history. We can think of many revivals when there appeared to be a greater outpouring or manifestation of the Holy Spirit than at other times.
But let us never denigrate or fail to appreciate our own experience of the same Holy Spirit. It is not as though Peter and James and John and Paul and the disciples in Samaria and Ephesus received a greater Holy Spirit than we received when we repented of sins and received Christ as Saviour. He is eternally the same. The Holy Spirit who came upon them to motivate and to empower them is the same Holy Spirit who has entered our puny little lives as well. It means that we too can (and should) be motivated and empowered by the same Holy Spirit to live for the Lord. Well in what way does that happen?
WORKING OUT IN PRACTICE WHAT GOD IS WORKING IN OUR LIVES
There was a brilliant little book with the title, “Caution! Saints At Work”. I suppose we, as modern day believers, could carry signs with the words, “Caution. God At Work On This Site” referring to the fact that He is at work within each one of His people. It would be true but perhaps not advisable! We shouldn’t have to tell others that God is at work in us. They should be able to see it without us pointing it out to them! What does the Bible have to say about God being at work in us in terms of motivating and empowering us to live for Him? The answer is found in Philippians 2:12-13, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. We will now take a closer look at those verses.
In verse 12 we note that it does not say, “Work for your salvation!” Salvation can only be a gift to us from God’s grace. We can never earn or deserve the mercy and grace of God. We can’t earn our salvation. That’s what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8,9, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (We will look more closely at those verses possibly in the next article).
In Philippians 2: 12-13 we are reminded that the responsibility of believers is to work out in practice what God is inwardly working within them. They are His saved or redeemed people. They respond to His amazing grace in their lives out of a sense of “fear and trembling”. This is not a cringing fear of God but rather the deep reverential awe of the majesty and holiness of God who has given them the awesome task and responsibility of doing His will for “His good pleasure”. What a task! What a responsibility! But He works in them to give them that willingness and the ability to do so. Or in the terms we have seen earlier, He motivates and empowers His people to live and work for Him.
SOME FURTHER COMMENTS ON THESE VERSES
In Philippians 2:12 Paul uses the word “katergazomai” in saying that believers are to “work out” their salvation. It means to accomplish or to complete a task. God’s grace and power are seen in the salvation of every individual. His grace and power are also there to help them to live out the implications of the salvation they have received by faith. In the next verse when he tells his readers that God is at work in them he uses the word “energeō” which means to produce an effect or to be operative within. What is produced by this work of God in the believer is a willingness and an ability to do God’s will. This ability in believers to work for God’s pleasure comes because of God’s work in them. Paul uses the same word on both occasions.
The final comment on these verses highlights another truth. Philippians 2:13 in many versions says that God works in believers “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. This appears to mean that God is pleased when His people allow Him to work in and through them. However not all translators or commentators seem to go with that meaning of eudokia for pleasure in this verse. But there is another verse in the New Testament where the word is best read in terms of giving God pleasure. It is Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” What an incredible motivation it would be for us (who have received Christ as Saviour and submitted to Him as Lord) to live in obedience to God’s will if we knew He was pleased by our genuinely sincere (but imperfect) attempts to do so. Even then we would humbly have to admit that unless God was at work in us, we would not have the desire to please Him and certainly not the ability to do so in our own strength. The whole of our Christian life from its beginning until we live with Him in glory depends on His amazing grace to us.
Jim Holbeck. Blog No.24. Posted on Monday 20th June 2011