Guided by God’s Spirit in the First Century and Today
“All these operations the one and the same spirit performs.”—1 COR. 12:11.
1. What points will we consider in this study?
PENTECOST. What thrilling events that one word brings to mind! (Acts 2:1-4) The outpouring of holy spirit on that occasion in the first century marked a momentous change in God’s dealings with his servants. In the preceding article, we considered some of the ways in which God’s spirit enabled faithful ones of old to carry out difficult and detailed assignments. But what is the difference between the way God’s spirit operated in pre-Christian times and the way it worked in the first century? And how do Christians benefit from the action of God’s holy spirit today? Let us see.
“Look! Jehovah’s Slave Girl!”
2. How had Mary seen the effect of holy spirit?
2 Mary was present in that large upper room in Jerusalem when the promised holy spirit was poured out. (Acts 1:13, 14) Yet, for more than three decades prior to that event, she had seen the effect of Jehovah’s spirit in remarkable ways. Jehovah had transferred his Son’s life from heaven to earth, causing conception in Mary’s womb while she was still a virgin. What had been begotten in her was “by holy spirit.”—Matt. 1:20.
3, 4. What attitude did Mary display, and how might we imitate her?
3 Why had Mary been favored with that unparalleled privilege? After the angel explained Jehovah’s will concerning her, Mary exclaimed: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration.” (Luke 1:38) In stating matters that way, Mary revealed a heart attitude that God had already noted. Her immediate response indicates that she was ready to accept his will in the matter. She did not raise any question about how people in the community would view her pregnancy or what possible effect it could have on her relationship with her fiancé. By referring to herself as the lowliest of servants, Mary showed that she trusted completely in Jehovah as her Master.
4 Have you at times felt somewhat overwhelmed by challenges or responsibilities in God’s service? Each of us does well to ask himself: ‘Do I completely trust in Jehovah to work matters out in harmony with his will? Am I truly demonstrating a willing spirit?’ Be assured that God gives his spirit to those who trust in him with all their heart and recognize his sovereign will.—Acts 5:32.
Peter Was Helped by Holy Spirit
5. In what ways had Peter seen holy spirit at work before Pentecost 33 C.E.?
5 Like Mary, the apostle Peter had personally experienced the powerful operation of God’s holy spirit prior to Pentecost 33 C.E. Jesus had given him and the other apostles authority to expel demons. (Mark 3:14-16) And although the Scriptures do not provide many details, it seems likely that Peter used that authority. God’s power was also made manifest when Jesus invited Peter to walk toward him over the Sea of Galilee, and Peter did so. (Read Matthew 14:25-29.) Obviously, Peter relied on holy spirit to help him perform mighty deeds. Soon that spirit would act on Peter and his fellow disciples in new ways.
6. By means of God’s spirit, what could Peter do during and after Pentecost 33 C.E.?
6 At the Festival of Pentecost 33 C.E., Peter and others were given the miraculous ability to communicate in the languages spoken by the sojourners visiting Jerusalem. Thereafter, Peter took the lead in addressing the assembly. (Acts 2:14-36) Yes, this man who on occasion was impetuous or fearful was imbued with courage to give a bold witness despite threats and persecution. (Acts 4:18-20, 31) He received knowledge by divine revelation. (Acts 5:8, 9) And he was even empowered to perform a resurrection.—Acts 9:40.
7. What teachings of Jesus became clear to Peter only after his anointing?
7 Even prior to Pentecost, Peter got the sense of many truths that Jesus taught. (Matt. 16:16, 17; John 6:68) But there were aspects of Jesus’ teachings that remained unclear to him before Pentecost. For instance, Peter had not discerned that Christ would be resurrected as a spirit on the third day; nor had Peter grasped that the Kingdom would be in heaven. (John 20:6-10; Acts 1:6) The concept of humans becoming spirit creatures and ruling in a heavenly Kingdom was foreign to Peter. Once he himself was baptized with holy spirit and given the heavenly hope, he could grasp the meaning of Jesus’ teachings on those points.
8. Both the anointed and the “other sheep” have what knowledge available?
8 Insight previously unattainable to Jesus’ disciples became available after the outpouring of holy spirit. By inspiration, the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures set out—for our benefit—amazing facets of Jehovah’s purpose. (Eph. 3:8-11, 18) Today, both spirit-anointed ones and those of the “other sheep” feed together spiritually, assimilating these same truths. (John 10:16) Do you cherish the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word that holy spirit thus makes available to you?
Paul Became “Filled With Holy Spirit”
9. Paul was able to accomplish what by means of holy spirit?
9 A year or so after Pentecost 33 C.E., someone else received God’s gift of the holy spirit. That was Saul, who became known as Paul. The spirit operated on him in ways that benefit us today. The apostle Paul was inspired to write 14 books of the Bible. And as was true of Peter, God’s spirit enabled Paul to understand and write with clarity about the hope of immortality and incorruptibility in the heavens. By holy spirit, Paul effected cures, expelled demons, and even raised the dead! However, the power received through holy spirit had a more important purpose, one that all of God’s servants today experience, though not miraculously.
10. How did holy spirit affect Paul’s ability to speak?
10 Paul, who was “filled with holy spirit,” spoke boldly against a sorcerer. What an effect that had on the principal administrator of Cyprus, who was listening to the whole conversation! That proconsul accepted the truth, “as he was astounded at the teaching of Jehovah.” (Acts 13:8-12) Clearly, Paul knew well the importance of God’s holy spirit when it comes to speaking the truth. (Matt. 10:20) He later entreated the congregation in Ephesus to make supplication for him that “ability to speak” might be given him.—Eph. 6:18-20.
11. How was Paul guided by God’s spirit?
11 Not only did holy spirit enable Paul to speak but, at times, it forbade him to speak in certain localities. As he embarked on his missionary journeys, Paul was guided by God’s spirit. (Acts 13:2; read Acts 16:6-10.) Jehovah still guides the preaching work by means of his spirit. Like Paul, all of Jehovah’s obedient servants strive to declare the truth with boldness and zeal. Even though God’s direction is not as obvious today as it was in Paul’s time, we can be sure that Jehovah is using his holy spirit to make sure that deserving ones hear the truth.—John 6:44.
“Varieties of Operations”
12-14. Does God’s spirit work on all his servants in the same way? Explain.
12 Do accounts of Jehovah’s blessing on the first-century congregation of anointed ones provide significant encouragement to God’s dedicated servants today? Without a doubt! Bear in mind Paul’s inspired words to the congregation in Corinth concerning the miraculous gifts of the spirit in his day: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but there is the same spirit; and there are varieties of ministries, and yet there is the same Lord; and there are varieties of operations, and yet it is the same God who performs all the operations in all persons.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6, 11) Yes, holy spirit can operate in different ways on different servants of God for a purpose. Indeed, the holy spirit is available both to Christ’s “little flock” and to his “other sheep.” (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) Yet, it does not always operate in the same way on each member of the congregation.
13 Elders, for instance, are appointed by holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) But not all spirit-anointed ones serve as overseers in the congregation. What are we to conclude from this? Simply that God’s spirit operates in different ways on members of the congregation.
14 The spirit that instills in anointed ones “a spirit of adoption,” or a sense of sonship, is the same spirit by which Jehovah raised his only-begotten Son from the dead to immortal life in heaven. (Read Romans 8:11, 15.) It is the same spirit by which Jehovah brought the entire universe into existence. (Gen. 1:1-3) By that same holy spirit, Jehovah qualified Bezalel for special work on the tabernacle, empowered Samson to perform deeds requiring outstanding strength, and enabled Peter to walk on water. Let us, therefore, not confuse having God’s spirit with being anointed with God’s spirit, the latter being just one special operation of the spirit. Spirit anointing depends on God’s choice.
15. Will baptism with holy spirit continue indefinitely? Explain.
15 God’s holy active force has been operating in various ways upon his faithful servants for as long as he has had faithful servants, yes, for thousands of years before spirit anointing began. At Pentecost 33 C.E., that new operation began, but it will not continue forever. Baptism with spirit will cease, but holy spirit will continue to operate on God’s people so that they may do his will for all eternity.
16. What are God’s servants doing now by means of his spirit?
16 What in particular is now taking place on earth by means of Jehovah’s holy spirit? Revelation 22:17 answers: “The spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” Moved by God’s spirit, Christians today extend Jehovah’s life-giving invitation to “anyone that wishes” to accept life’s water. Anointed Christians are taking the lead in doing this. Yet, those of the other sheep join in extending this invitation. Both classes cooperate with the same holy spirit in accomplishing this work. Those of both classes have symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) And all of them yield to the action of God’s spirit in their lives, allowing it to produce in them its fruitage. (Gal. 5:22, 23) Like the anointed, the other sheep allow God’s spirit to help them. With its help, they do their utmost to measure up to Jehovah’s requirements of holiness.—2 Cor. 7:1; Rev. 7:9, 14.
Keep Asking for Holy Spirit
17. How might we give proof that we have God’s spirit?
17 So whether your God-given hope is that of everlasting life in heaven or on earth, Jehovah can supply you with “power beyond what is normal” in order for you to maintain your integrity and receive your reward. (2 Cor. 4:7) Your continued preaching of the good news of the Kingdom may draw ridicule. But remember that “if you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.”—1 Pet. 4:14.
18, 19. How will Jehovah help you by means of his holy spirit, and what is your determination in this regard?
18 Holy spirit is God’s free gift to those who sincerely seek it. It can enhance not only your abilities but also your desire to do your best in his service. “God is the one that, for the sake of his good pleasure, is acting within you in order for you both to will and to act.” The precious gift of holy spirit, coupled with our earnest efforts to keep “a tight grip on the word of life,” will allow us to “keep working out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.”—Phil. 2:12, 13, 16.
19 With complete confidence in God’s spirit, then, pour your heart into every assignment, become skilled at what you are given to do, and look to Jehovah for assistance. (Jas. 1:5) He will give you what you need to understand his Word, cope with life’s problems, and preach the good news. “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you,” and this includes receiving holy spirit. (Luke 11:9, 13) Indeed, keep on supplicating Jehovah that you may be like faithful ones—both ancient and modern—who were guided by God’s holy spirit.
Can You Explain?
• Like Mary, what attitude can we display that will bring blessings?
• In what sense was Paul guided by God’s spirit?
• How are God’s servants guided by God’s spirit today?
[Picture on page 24]
God’s spirit enabled Paul to overcome the influence of wicked spirits
[Picture on page 26]
Today, holy spirit is available to aid Christians, whatever their hope