God has revealed The Seven Great Mysteries of the World to His people. These are:
- The Mystery of the Gospel – the Good News of the incarnation of Christ (Eph 6:19; 1 Tim 3:16)
- The Mystery of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Col 1:27; 1 Cor 6:17 & 19)
- The Mystery of the Body of Christ – Jew and Gentile one in Christ (Eph 3:1-9; 5:32)
- The Mystery of the Rapture – the transformation of the saints (1 Cor 15:51-55; 1 Thess 4:15-17)
- The Mystery of the Restoration of Israel (Rom 11:25-29)
- The Mystery of Iniquity – the son of perdition revealed (2 Thess 2:7-9)
- Mystery, Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5)
In my last post I introduced the first Great Mystery and explained that it unlocks the next six Great Mysteries our Creator has revealed. The first Great Mystery is the Mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19) – the Good News of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second Great Mystery revealed to the early church was that of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This mysterious blessing is freely available to all people everywhere when they repent of their rebellion towards their Creator and give their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. In a letter to the Colossian church Paul explained:
This mystery has been kept secret for ages and generations, but now it has been revealed to God’s people from all nations. To these people He chose to make known the riches and glory of this hidden mystery – and this is the mystery – Christ lives in you and thus gives you the hope of sharing in His glory. (Col 1:26-27)
The Old Testament prophets had alluded to this mystery (Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10) when they mentioned an outpouring of God’s Spirit. In the New Testament John the Baptist was the first to announce the imminence of the outpouring of God’s Spirit when he told his listeners:
I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be His slave and carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mat 3:11) NLT
Mark (1:8) and Luke (3:16) also give accounts of this speech John the Baptist made when proclaiming the arrival of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.
A Voice From Heaven
Jesus then came to John to be baptized and all of the gospel writers (Mat 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-33) give accounts of the Spirit coming upon Him after His baptism. Matthew, Mark and Luke also add that a voice from heaven testified that Jesus was God’s much beloved Son, while John’s record is a testimony from John the Baptist. John the apostle writes:
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon Him. I didn’t know He was the One, but when God sent me to baptize with water, He told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that He is the Chosen One of God. ” (John 1:32-34) NLT
This event heralded the end of John the Baptist’s mission and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and journey to Calvary (Luke 3:23).
Because Jesus had not yet ascended, when He spoke of this Great Mystery, a complete understanding of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was yet to be revealed. However, when He announced that He was the Living Bread that had come down from heaven, He told His listeners that they needed to feed on Him (John 6:48-56); that is, be indwelt by His everlasting life (John 6:63). At the Last Supper Jesus returned to this metaphor when He introduced the remembrance ceremony of the bread and the wine, which He said were symbolic of His broken body and poured out blood (Luke 22:19-20).
The Comforter Will Come
Jesus further fleshed out this teaching when He told the disciples, near the very end of His earthly ministry, that He was going to send them a Comforter – the Holy Spirit – and that through the Spirit the Father and the Son would make their abode in God’s people (John 14:23). This is indeed a Great Mystery.
The very last instruction Jesus gave His disciples while He was on earth was that they should wait in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8). After giving His followers this command He ascended to heaven to be with the Father (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9). Jesus had earlier explained to Nicodemus that:
….. no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5-7) NLT
We are all born naturally of the amniotic waters; we were in our mothers’ wombs and our lives were totally dependent on our mothers’ bodies to nourish and accommodate us. But when people are born again, they are born of the Spirit of God; they are indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit and His very life gives them new life. It is because God lives in us that we are made fit to live eternally in God’s presence. After the ascension the disciples waited for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Luke tells us:
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Act 2:1-4)
This incident created quite a sensation as onlookers gathered around to see what was happening. They were amazed to hear the believers speaking in a number of different, recognisable languages.
The Christian Church Is Born
In the midst of the assembled crowd Peter stood up and told the gathering that this event had been foretold by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16). Peter went on to remind them that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2: 32), thus revealing Him to be the Lord and Messiah they had long been hoping for. This was the very same Jesus they had just crucified (Acts 2: 36). Peter’s words struck thousands of onlookers to the heart. As Luke records:
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” (Act 2:37-39) NLT
About 3000 people believed Peter’s words that day and were baptized and joined the Body of Christ (Acts 2:41). This was the beginning of the Christian church. Following this event new believers were directed to repent of their rebellion against God, after which they were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:15-18; 10:44-45, 47; 11:15-16; 19:2-6; 1 Cor 12:13: Titus 3:5).
There is some controversy over the meaning of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” in the church today. Many people believe certain gifts of the Spirit are evidence of the baptism of the Spirit, but Paul taught that there are many gifts and not all people have all gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Heb 2:4). Peter summarised this when he wrote:
God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
The apostle Paul explained to the Galatians that we receive the Spirit by faith (Gal 3:14), when the Father sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts (Gal 4:6). He also instructed the Galatians to live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25). It is only then that God’s people will produce spiritual fruit. Paul described this fruit when he wrote:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
At the end of his instructions to the Galatians Paul wrote:
If you think you can fool God, you are only fooling yourselves. You will harvest what you plant. If you live to satisfy your sinful self, the harvest you will get from that will be eternal death. But if you live to please the Spirit, your harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life. We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up. When we have the opportunity to do good to anyone, we should do it. But we should give special attention to those who are in the family of believers. (Gal 6:7-10) ERV
Paul also directed the Ephesians to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). He reminded them that the baptism of the Spirit enables believers to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which all have been called; and with humility, gentleness and patience, bear with one another in love, making sure to keep the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:1-3).
The Father Equips Us For His Service
Our Father poured out His Spirit upon us to equip us for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12). We should therefore be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we are sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).
Paul was writing to believers in both of these epistles and it is a good reminder to all of us who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. As our Lord said:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Mat 5:16)
God has poured out His Spirit upon His people to bring glory to His name. May we each walk in a manner worthy of the high calling we have received from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is not so much an issue of assuring high moral standards in the unsaved (although these are very important to their wellbeing), it is an issue of us loving as He loved us. May our Father find us loving even our enemies, because He has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to do just that. As the apostle John pointed out:
If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. (1Jn 4:20-21) GNB
Nothing else reveals the Mystery of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit so much as our ability to love. Our love for those we meet is the undeniable evidence of God in us and His work through us. God is Love ( 1 John 4:8) and as He indwells us by His Spirit we are made willing and able to express this most essential aspect of His nature to all those we encounter throughout our lives in this broken world.