How Does God’s Spirit Operate Today?
Are miraculous physical cures the way God’s spirit manifests itself at this time? How can a person be guided by it?
“SUDDENLY there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible and were distributed to them, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.”—Acts 2:2-4.
This remarkable event took place in the city of Jerusalem nearly 1,927 years ago. It happened on the day of Pentecost, which was the fiftieth day after the first fruits of the barley harvest had been offered to Jehovah by waving a sheaf of grain before the altar. The persons who experienced this outpouring of the spirit were disciples of Jesus Christ. The outpouring of God’s holy spirit upon them was not only visibly manifested by the “tongues as if of fire” but also by their speaking in languages they were unfamiliar with up to that time. It was clear evidence that God had chosen them as his servants.
Jesus foretold this event when he told his followers: “You will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” (Acts 1:4, 5) That they were baptized by it is clear evidence that holy spirit is invisible power from God. It is his active force by which he causes his purposes to be carried out. It might be compared with electrical power that invisibly radiates from a source such as a radio broadcasting station or radar. Its effect might also be likened to that of a magnet. Objects can be enveloped or immersed in that magnetic field. So it is with persons that are immersed in God’s spirit or active force.
When the spirit operated upon a person he was able to do things that other people could not do. It brought water out of a rock for Moses and divided the waters of the Red Sea before him. It gave Samson superhuman physical strength so that he was able to carry away on his back the immense gates of a city. It caused fire to consume an altar and the sacrifice upon it at a prayer from Elijah. By Elisha it raised the dead and healed leprosy. It gave Bible writers and other godly men the ability to foretell with astounding accuracy things in the future distant from their day.
Although it worked mightily through men before the coming of Christ, they were not begotten as spiritual sons of God as were the 120 Christians at Pentecost. That was something new. Because of being begotten by God’s spirit they had a heavenly destiny of becoming spirit creatures and ruling with Christ in the heavens. By resurrection they would become a body of co-rulers with Christ, with him as the head. “For truly by one spirit we were all baptized into one body . . . Now you are Christ’s body, and members individually.”—1 Cor. 12:13, 27.
GOD’S SPIRIT TODAY
Since God’s holy spirit operated on Christians in the first century and upon faithful persons for centuries before the Christian era, is it not reasonable to expect it to operate upon Christians today? We cannot, however, expect the spirit to operate in identically the same manner as it did in those past ages.
The spirit is not now causing dead persons to be raised to human life, lepers to be physically cleansed, sacrifices to be consumed by heavenly fire and persons to have superhuman physical strength. Notwithstanding claims by certain religious persons that they have the power to perform miraculous acts of physical healing, God’s spirit does not operate in that manner today. If it did, the persons it operated through could heal completely all who came to them. When it operated through the apostles, sick and deformed persons were made completely well. Peter healed a man who was born with a leg deformity that prevented him from walking. The man was instantly healed so that he could leap about. But this is not the case with so-called “faith healers” today. Thousands come to them in hope and go away in disappointment.—Acts 5:16.
God’s spirit does not operate through today’s “faith healers” any more than it operates through the so-called “tooth of Buddha” in Ceylon or through idol images that are supposed to have powers of healing.
It might also be mentioned that God’s spirit does not operate upon anyone to cause him to mumble in a gibberish, to roll on the floor and to act as if possessed. Instead, it operates in a calm and sensible manner. The Scriptures state: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits.” (Jas. 3:17) God’s spirit, or active force, acts in the same manner because it operates according to divine wisdom.
GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT
It was possible for the apostles to perform acts of miraculous healing and to talk in unfamiliar languages because the spirit imparted to them unusual gifts to help establish the Christian congregation. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but there is the same spirit.”—1 Cor. 12:4.
After the death of the last apostle these miraculous gifts that made the presence of God’s spirit so evident in the first century passed away. Now that the Christian congregation is in its adulthood it no longer needs these gifts that helped to establish it in its infancy. Now the spirit is performing greater works of spiritual healing.
BAPTISM OF SPIRIT TODAY
Without baptism of the spirit it is not possible for a Christian to become a spiritual son of God and a member of Christ’s body of co-rulers. “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Therefore, baptism of the spirit is a necessary requirement today for those who are privileged to have a resurrection to spirit life. Only a relatively small number of these persons who are redeemed from the earth to rule with Christ are still on earth today. They are only a remnant of the total number of 144,000. “I saw, and look! the Lamb standing upon the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . These were purchased from among mankind as a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”—Rev. 14:1, 4.
Baptism of the spirit is common to all who make up this select group. “One body there is, and one spirit, even as you were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:4, 5) The spirit does not manifest itself on these persons today in the striking manner it did at Pentecost. Nevertheless, it bears witness with their spirit, or mental disposition, that they are spirit begotten and destined for life in the heavens with Christ. “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”—Rom. 8:16.
This spirit-begotten remnant are commissioned by the spirit to preach the Christian truths they have learned from God’s Word. “The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones.” (Isa. 61:1) The good news is regarding God’s kingdom and the change it will bring upon the earth. They cannot keep silent, for their salvation depends upon their preaching as Christ did. “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:10.
It is through these spirit-anointed ones that God’s spirit operates today to supply spiritual food for peoples of all nations. As it operated through such ones in the first century who were united in one organization of proclaimers of God’s kingdom, so it does today. The remnant, along with a great crowd of companions, form the modern-day Christian organization through which God’s spirit is operating and causing the following prophecy to be fulfilled: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
God’s spirit operates upon Christians today, not only by baptizing certain ones to be members of Christ’s little flock of Kingdom heirs, but by guiding them in the way they should go to receive Jehovah’s approval. It is causing a world-wide educational campaign to be carried on with regard to making known God’s name Jehovah, his truths and purposes. When their integrity is put to the test by worldly persecutions and trials, it strengthens them. Because of its protection Satan’s world has not been able to destroy them as an organization and stamp out their witnessing to Jehovah’s name and kingdom.
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
Although God’s spirit does not anoint the “other sheep” to be joint heirs in the heavenly kingdom with Christ, it operates on them to produce good fruits. By means of his spirit these meek persons who appear weak in the eyes of the world are made strong and are able to accomplish a tremendous world-wide preaching work despite great opposition. “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:13.
Because these zealous proclaimers of God’s name and kingdom have his spirit upon them they produce the fruits of the spirit mentioned in the Scriptures: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) Political, racial and language barriers do not prevent them from exercising love for one another, and that love does not turn to hate when political leaders decide to have a war. This prophecy is fulfilled in them: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Mic. 4:3, AS) Because of God’s spirit being on them they are able to live in peace while in the midst of a wicked, war-minded world.
To maintain the fruits of the spirit they keep separate from the world and do not become entangled in its unscriptural activities. They transform their thinking from its wrong way of thinking, that it might conform with God’s Word. “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) The operation of God’s spirit makes this change possible. As Christ said regarding his apostles, so he can say regarding the remnant of spirit-anointed ones and their companions: “They are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
OPERATES ON ORGANIZATION
In the first century it took the apostles and God’s spirit to explain the deep things of God’s Word. As it operated through the Christian organization then, so it does today. “It is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10) These deep things are being made known by the holy spirit through the theocratic organization of Jehovah’s witnesses. As those who are responsible for supplying spiritual food for God’s people diligently search the Scriptures for accurate knowledge, the spirit broadens their understanding little by little. Thus, in a gradual way, the light of understanding of God’s Word grows brighter and brighter as we draw closer to the divinely set date for Armageddon.
This could be compared with what the apostle Paul said: “For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately.” (1 Cor. 13:12) Accurate knowledge does not come all at once. Because it is gradual, the Christian must adjust his understanding as the light increases. This is the way the spirit operates today. It does not inspire anyone to make infallible interpretations of the Scriptures, but instead it exercises an influence upon God’s servants as they study the Bible so that certain truths come to their notice.
The holy spirit acts in a similar manner with regard to the operating of the worldwide organization of God’s modern-day witnesses. It does not inspire those in positions of responsibility, but allows overseers and ministerial servants to plan the activity of the organization. It permits them freedom of personal movement. As long as their plans are in harmony with the Scriptures and God’s purposes it prospers them and backs them up. So they apply themselves to the preaching work that God’s inspired Word says is to be done now, and they follow the pattern set by Jesus and the apostles. They base their decisions on the principles found in the Bible. At all times they show a willingness to submit to the spirit’s leading.
A person cannot expect to be guided by God’s spirit if he refuses to associate with the theocratic organization through which it operates. In the first century it operated through the organization headed by the apostles. In this twentieth century it operates through the organization headed by the remnant of Christ’s spirit-begotten ones. This is the organization that is advancing the interests of God’s kingdom by proclaiming the good news of it far and wide. This is the organization that is remaining undefiled by the world and as a result is hated by it, as prophecy foretold. This is the organization that is gathering into a New World society meek people who love righteousness in all parts of the earth and teaching them how to serve God. Those who are thus gathered benefit from the spirit’s influence as it operates upon the organization.
Although God’s spirit does not operate today in the spectacular way it did at Pentecost, it is, nevertheless, causing an immense educational work to be done to the honor of Jehovah’s name. Those who follow its leadings, in unison with the New World society, are guided along the narrow way that leads to eternal life under the righteous rule of God’s kingdom.