Let us have a look at one of the most stirring sections in the book of Acts, not to do some exegesis, but as an introduction to this section. This reading reminds us that when God moves something always happens.
Acts 4 v. 23-31
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
That was a tremendous occasion in the experience of the early church. Notice how the gist of the prayer centres on the anointed Lord Jesus Christ;
Acts 4 v. 27
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
They also pray that the Lord will stretch out his hand and do tremendous things.
I want to consider certain practical aspects of the anointing of the Holy Spirit. There are three areas I want to speak about, the things that accompany the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I believe that physically, spiritually and in all sorts of ways there are certain manifestations that accompany the anointing. We see in the scripture above and in many places in the Acts of the Apostles that when they pray and when they receive the anointing from the Anointed One, that the Holy Spirit comes and fills them.
There are all sorts of arguments about the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. It is quite clear that filling with the Spirit is not the same kind of thing as the initial work of the Spirit in believers. This is what I like to describe under the umbrella-term as “the coming-on of the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit resides in believers in a way that he did in no-one before Jesus. John the Baptist said;
John 1 v. 32
The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the son of God.
We know that in the new covenant the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart and is in our life from the day of regeneration. There is no such thing as a Christian without the Holy Spirit, and that is one disservice charismatic theology has done us, in making us almost believe that you can be a Christian in one way and then you get the Holy Spirit to complete your christianity as though you never had the Spirit before. We need to spell out very clearly in some parts of the church that there is no such thing as a born-again christian without the Holy Spirit. Romans chapter 8 makes that very clear;
Romans 8 v.9
If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
The fact is that the Holy Spirit brings us into that regenerative experience in the power of God. Jesus made that clear to Nicodemus too;
John 3 v. 8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
It is equally clear that it is the desire of the father that we know the empowering of the Spirit. That there is an experience of a release of the Spirit in our lives that engages our voluntary will. In other words, there are many believing christians born of the Spirit who are not living in the liberty of the Spirit. That is the kind of experience that identifies with what we call the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and there is all kinds of language used. I like what Michael Green says at the end of his book;
“I believe in the Holy Spirit; by whatever name, receive!”
I think the Bible makes it clear that this experience should not be a crisis experience subsequent to conversion. It should be part of the initial act of entering into Christ. Because of defective teaching, theology and belief, and because of all sorts of things a great gap as come between this insertion of the Holy Spirit in power and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in initiation into Christ. And so in the classical Pentecostal stream a theology has been built up which we describe as a theology of subsequence, meaning that the Holy Spirit baptism is not looked for and subsequent after conversion, and years after conversion. That is of course where “tarrying” meetings came from, where the Authorized Version says to “tarry in Jerusalem until you receive the promise of the Father. Especially through the “Latter-Rain” movement in Canada around 1947 where people sometimes “tarried” for years to receive this baptism in the Holy Spirit.
So much of these problems are a result of defective biblical insight. I believe that God’s purpose was that people should be saved, empowered and baptised. People say the disciples had to wait for days or weeks before they received the promise, but at the end of Peter’s Pentecostal address we have what we ought to have;
Acts 2 v. 28
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
I believe that this is the ideal and those of us in influence in the body and in people’s experience should encourage people to go into what God has for them sooner rather then later.
Having studied the anointing, there are comings-on of the Holy Spirit even given all of the above. There are comings-on of the Holy Spirit entirely different from our regeneration or our baptism in the Spirit, and you could call them occasional things. That does not mean that it is not often, it means that it can happen very often but that it is not all time. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit is on us to the same intensity all of the time. I think it is quite clear from Scripture, from Christian history and from our experience that the Holy Spirit comes on us more intensely at some times than others. That is what I mean by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in that way. If we are going to minister effectively for Jesus, we are going to look for the Holy Spirit coming on us at God’s initiative, opened-up by God and enabled by ourselves.
There are two sides to the work of the Holy Spirit;
1. There is God’s side, and it is perfectly clear that he is more than willing to pour-out his Holy Spirit and that Jesus desires his ministry to be unfettered in any way. It seems to me that Jesus, being exalted to the right hand of the Father, has the same desire to pour out His Spirit on all flesh without any hindrance to us experiencing the receiving of the Holy Spirit in that way.
2. On our side it is perfectly obvious that there are things “at ground level” that enable or disable the flow of the Holy Spirit. I think that one of the major growth points in our lives is when we realise within our own experience what things enable the Spirit and what things disable the Spirit. I would even go further than that as I believe there are things we can talk about that effect all of us positively or negatively. I believe that there are individual characteristics in every man or woman’s life, and one of the secrets of the anointing is to know yourself, to know what makes you tick, what your moods are like, what things you are scared about, what brings you out in a cold sweat. You need to know what causes you to feel constrained in your spirit, how you react to circumstances, to people. Knowing yourself is going to be a great part of the answer to becoming free, to overcome these things so that that the anointing is not blocked by practicalities.
I want to talk about the things that accompany the anointing, that enable the anointing or that hinder the anointing. I believe we can increase the anointing. That does not mean that we can add to God more power than he already has, but that there are things we can do at our end that let the power flow more readily. If we can learn what those points are in our experience then we will learn how to handle the anointing in our experience.
Smith Wigglesworth used to lie down in the afternoon, not to sleep but to work things out with the Lord so that when he got to a meeting he was already prepared for what God wanted, he was in charge of the situation. I am quite sure that there were some things that he was not in charge of, but when you read the books you can get an idealistic picture because people forget the background. He must have had some lousy meetings as well as good ones, but you must not paint an unrealistic picture of the anointing.
There are people I have worked with who are never put-off by anything. They get an idea, or a word from the Lord as they would call it, and go through with it not caring what it is like. They will stand and talk at you for 3 hours as long as they are convinced that they are right. They never seem to have a bad day, while lesser mortals like myself are affected by the atmosphere of other people’s unbelief. Sometimes I do have bad meetings, as we do here. If we paint an unrealistic picture of life people start to live up in cloud-cuckoo-land, and that is not what the anointing of God is all about. Feet on the ground, realistic, plain, straight-forward, practical and workable. We have to put that balance in before we go on to say some tremendous things about the anointing.
There are three things that I want to talk about. The things that accompany the anointing. You may think that my list is different from your list, that I don’t mention this or that or what happened when you saw the Holy Spirit coming-on someone. Well, I am speaking out of my personal experience. You can take something from the scriptures and see how the anointing came on people and they spoke the the Word with boldness. It may be in a particular kind of ministry when the Holy Spirit comes on you certain characteristics will take place in your life that are distinctives and you have to add them to your own list. The purpose of me doing a list is to universalise a certain experience because I believe there are certain things, when the anointing of God comes on people that you will find again and again all over the world. And also not only to universalise but also to particularise my experience. In other words the