How Does God’s Spirit Operate Today?
HE WAS lame from his mother’s womb. Daily, he sat at the temple gate called Beautiful in order to ask gifts of mercy from those entering into the temple. On one occasion, however, this disabled beggar received a gift that was worth far more than a few small coins. He was healed!—Acts 3:2-8.
Although the apostles Peter and John were the ones who “raised him up” so that “the soles of his feet . . . were made firm,” they did not take credit for the healing. Why not? Peter himself explained: “Men of Israel, why are you wondering over this, or why are you gazing at us as though by personal power or godly devotion we have made him walk?” Indeed, both Peter and John realized that it was, not by their might, but by God’s holy spirit that such a thing could be done.—Acts 3:7-16; 4:29-31.
At that time, such “powerful works” were provided to show that the fledgling Christian congregation had God’s backing. (Hebrews 2:4) But after having served their purpose, they would be “done away with,” said the apostle Paul.* (1 Corinthians 13:8) Thus, we do not now observe in the true Christian congregation any God-ordained healings, prophetic messages, or the exorcising of demons.
Does this mean, though, that God’s holy spirit is no longer operative? Far from it! Let us consider some other ways in which God’s spirit was active in the first century and is active in our day.
“The Spirit of the Truth”
One operation of God’s holy spirit is to inform, to illuminate, to reveal truths. Shortly before his death, Jesus told his disciples: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth.”—John 16:12, 13.
“The spirit of the truth” was poured out at Pentecost 33 C.E. when about 120 disciples who gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem were baptized with holy spirit. (Acts 2:1-4) The apostle Peter was among those present for that annual festival. Filled with holy spirit, Peter “stood up” and amplified, or clarified, certain truths about Jesus. He recounted, for example, how “Jesus the Nazarene” was “exalted to the right hand of God.” (Acts 2:14, 22, 33) God’s spirit also moved Peter to declare boldly to his Jewish listeners: “Let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:36) As a result of Peter’s spirit-inspired message, about three thousand persons “embraced his word heartily” and got baptized. In this way, God’s holy spirit helped to guide them into the truth.—Acts 2:37-41.
God’s holy spirit also served as a teacher and remembrancer. Jesus said: “The helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.”—John 14:26.
How did holy spirit operate as a teacher? God’s spirit opened the disciples’ minds to things that they had previously heard from Jesus but had not fully understood. For example, the apostles knew that during his trial, Jesus told the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” Yet, at the time of Jesus’ ascension to heaven over 40 days later, the apostles still had the mistaken view that the Kingdom would be established here on the earth. (John 18:36; Acts 1:6) Apparently, the apostles were not able to grasp fully the meaning of Jesus’ words until after the outpouring of God’s holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E.
God’s spirit also served as a remembrancer by bringing back to mind the various teachings of Jesus. Prophecies regarding Christ’s death and resurrection, for instance, took on new meaning with the aid of holy spirit. (Matthew 16:21; John 12:16) Recalling Jesus’ teachings enabled the apostles boldly to defend their position before kings, magistrates, and religious leaders.—Mark 13:9-11; Acts 4:5-20.
Additionally, God’s holy spirit helped to direct early Christians to fruitful territory in the ministry. (Acts 16:6-10) God’s spirit also moved early Christians to share in writing God’s Word, the Bible, for the benefit of all humankind. (2 Timothy 3:16) Clearly, then, holy spirit was active in a variety of ways in the first century. It was not provided solely to perform miracles.
Holy Spirit in Our Day
Holy spirit has likewise been working in behalf of true Christians in our day. This became evident to a small group of Bible students in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., in the latter half of the 19th century. These earnest students of the Bible yearned to know “the truth.”—John 8:32; 16:13.
One member of this group, Charles Taze Russell, said regarding his quest for Scriptural truth: “I prayed . . . that I might be enabled to rid my heart and mind of any prejudice that might stand in the way and be led of his spirit into the proper understanding.” God blessed this humble prayer.
As Russell and his associates diligently searched the Scriptures, a number of things became clear. “We found that for centuries,” explained Russell, “various sects and parties had split up the Bible doctrines amongst them, blending them with more or less of human speculation and error.” This resulted in what he called “the misplacement of the truth.” Indeed, Scriptural truths were buried under a collection of pagan teachings that had infiltrated Christendom over the centuries. But Russell was determined to know and declare the truth.
Through the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, Russell and his associates courageously denounced false religious doctrines that misrepresented God. They discerned that—contrary to popular religious opinion—the soul is mortal, that at death we go to the grave, and that Jehovah is the only true God and therefore not part of a Trinity.
As you can imagine, though, such exposing of false teachings angered the clergy of Christendom. Eager to hold on to their influential positions, many Catholic and Protestant clergymen organized campaigns aimed at discrediting Russell. But he and his associates did not give up. Confidently, they looked to God’s spirit for guidance. “Our Lord’s assurance,” said Russell, “is that . . . the holy spirit of the Father, sent on account of and at the instance of Jesus our Redeemer, Mediator and Head, will be our instructor.” And instruct it did! These sincere Bible Students continued to take in the pure waters of truth from the Bible and proclaim them worldwide.—Revelation 22:17.
The modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has remained sensitive to the leadings of God’s holy spirit for well over a century now. As Jehovah’s spirit progressively enlightens their spiritual vision, the Witnesses willingly make the needed adjustments to conform to updated understanding.—Proverbs 4:18.
“You Will Be Witnesses of Me”
Jesus identified yet another manifestation of God’s holy spirit when he told his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus’ promise to infuse his disciples with “power” and “holy spirit” in order to carry out their God-assigned work still applies today.
As a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known for their preaching activities. (See box.) Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses speak the message of truth in over 230 lands and island groups. Under every imaginable condition, including risking their lives in war-torn areas, they courageously raise their voices in support of God’s Kingdom. Their zeal for the Christian ministry gives powerful evidence that holy spirit is in operation today. And it is obvious that Jehovah God is blessing their efforts.
Last year, for example, well over one billion hours were devoted to preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. With what result? Some 323,439 people symbolized their dedication to God by submitting themselves to water baptism. In addition, 4,433,884 weekly home Bible studies were conducted with newly interested ones. All told, 24,607,741 books, 631,162,309 magazines, and 63,495,728 brochures and booklets were placed. What a powerful testimony to God’s spirit in action!
God’s Spirit and You
When an individual responds favorably to the good news, conforms his life to God’s standards, and expresses faith in the ransom provision, the way is opened for a clean standing with God. To such ones the apostle Paul said: “God . . . puts his holy spirit in you.”—1 Thessalonians 4:7, 8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Having God’s spirit results in many fine blessings. What kind of blessings? For one thing, God’s inspired Word says: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, [and] self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Therefore, God’s holy spirit is a powerful force for good, enabling one to display godly qualities.
Additionally, if you read the Bible and apply what you learn, God’s spirit can help you to grow in wisdom, knowledge, insight, judgment, and thinking ability. King Solomon received “wisdom and understanding in very great measure and a broadness of heart” because he sought to please God rather than men. (1 Kings 4:29) Since Jehovah gave holy spirit to Solomon, surely he will not withhold his holy spirit from those seeking to please him today.
God’s holy spirit also helps Christians to combat Satan and the demons, this wicked system of things, and the sinful tendencies of their fallen flesh. How is that possible? The apostle Paul answers: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Philippians 4:13) Holy spirit may not remove trials or temptations; it can, however, help you to endure them. By relying on God’s spirit, we can receive “power beyond what is normal” to deal with any trouble or distress.—2 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
When you consider all the evidence, there is little doubt that God’s holy spirit is operating today. Jehovah’s spirit energizes his servants to bear witness about his grand purposes. It continues to reveal flashes of spiritual light, and it fortifies our faith, helping us to remain loyal to our Creator. How thankful we can be that God has remained true to his promise by supplying holy spirit to his faithful servants today!
See the article “Why Have the Miraculous Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?” in The Watchtower of August 15, 1971, pages 501-5.
[Box on page 10]
What Others Say About Jehovah’s Witnesses
“While other churches hire consultants to lure people into the pews or grapple with modern-day issues such as homosexuality and abortion, the Witnesses make no concessions to a changing world. They still systematically canvass the Earth.”—The Orange County Register of Orange County, California, U.S.A.
“When it comes to spreading the faith, few denominations are as enthusiastic . . . as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—The Republic of Columbus, Indiana, U.S.A.
“They are the only ones to go from door to door with ‘the good news,’ applying the Bible’s principles.”—Życie Literackie, Poland.
“In the greatest preaching campaign ever known, Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken Jehovah’s message throughout the world.”—News-Observer, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
[Pictures on page 9]
God’s holy spirit enlightens us spiritually,
. . . promotes fine Christian qualities,
. . . and supports us in the worldwide preaching work