Guided by God’s Spirit in the First Century and Today
“All these operations the one and the same spirit performs.”—1 CORINTHIANS 12:11.
1. What will we study in this article?
PENTECOST of the year 33 was a day when some exciting things happened. It was the day that God poured out his spirit on his servants! (Acts 2:1-4) God began to use his spirit to guide his people in a new way. In the last article, we studied about how God’s spirit helped his faithful servants of the past to do difficult things in God’s service. But what is the difference between the way God’s spirit guided God’s servants before the Christian congregation was created and after that? And how do Christians benefit from the guidance of God’s holy spirit today? That is what we are going to study in this article.
“LOOK! JEHOVAH’S SLAVE GIRL!”
2. What did Mary know about God’s spirit?
2 When the holy spirit was poured out in that large upper room in Jerusalem, Mary was there. (Acts 1:13, 14) But even before that day, she had known for a long time that Jehovah can do amazing things through his spirit. More than 30 years earlier, Jehovah had sent the life of his Son from heaven to earth. Jehovah used holy spirit to cause Mary to become pregnant even though she was still a virgin.—Matthew 1:20.
3, 4. How did Mary feel about what God asked her to do? How can we imitate her?
3 Why did Jehovah choose Mary? After the angel told Mary that she would give birth to God’s Son, she said: “Look! Jehovah’s slave girl! May it take place with me according to your declaration.” (Luke 1:38) What Mary said showed the kind of person she was. She was ready to accept Jehovah’s will for her. She did not ask the angel about what people would think of her pregnancy or fear that Joseph may not want to marry her anymore. By saying that she was Jehovah’s slave girl, Mary showed that she had complete trust in Jehovah.
4 Do you sometimes feel that your responsibilities in God’s service are too much for you to care for? Each of us should ask himself: Do I completely trust that Jehovah will take care of things according to his will? Am I truly willing to do the work that Jehovah wants me to do? You can be sure that God gives his spirit to those who have complete trust in him and obey him as Ruler.—Acts 5:32.
HOLY SPIRIT HELPED PETER
5. How had the holy spirit helped Peter before Pentecost of the year 33?
5 Like Mary, the apostle Peter had also seen and felt the power of holy spirit before Pentecost of the year 33. Jesus had given him and the other apostles authority to expel demons. (Mark 3:14-16) And even though the Bible does not tell us much about it, it seems that Peter used that authority. Also, when Jesus invited Peter to walk toward him on the Sea of Galilee, Peter was able to do it with the help of holy spirit. (Read Matthew 14:25-29.) So it is clear that Peter was able to do powerful things because he trusted in the help of holy spirit. Soon that spirit would give Peter and the other disciples power to do many other things.
6. What did God’s spirit help Peter to do during and after Pentecost of the year 33?
6 At Pentecost of the year 33, holy spirit gave Peter and others the miraculous ability to speak in the languages of those who were visiting Jerusalem. Then Peter stood up and spoke to the crowd. (Acts 2:14-36) Peter had sometimes been afraid or had done things without thinking. After he received holy spirit, however, he had the courage to preach even though he was persecuted and told to stop preaching. (Acts 4:18-20, 31) God used his spirit to give Peter special knowledge. (Acts 5:8, 9) And God’s spirit even gave the apostle the power to resurrect someone.—Acts 9:40.
7. What teachings of Jesus did Peter understand only after he was anointed?
7 Before Pentecost, Peter understood many of the truths that Jesus taught. (Matthew 16:16, 17; John 6:68) But there were other truths that Peter understood only after Pentecost. For example, Peter did not understand that Christ would be resurrected as a spirit person after three days or that Christ’s Kingdom would be in heaven. (John 20:6-10; Acts 1:6) Peter did not understand that humans could become spirits and rule in a heavenly Kingdom. It was only after he himself was anointed with holy spirit at Pentecost and chosen for life in heaven that Peter understood these teachings of Jesus.
8. What knowledge can both the anointed and the other sheep have?
8 After Jesus’ disciples received holy spirit, they were able to understand teachings that they did not understand before. Holy spirit inspired the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures to explain amazing truths about Jehovah’s purpose. (Ephesians 3:8-11, 18) Today, both the anointed and the other sheep can study and understand these same truths. (John 10:16) Are you thankful for the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word that God’s spirit helps you to have?
PAUL BECAME “FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT”
9. What did holy spirit help Paul to do?
9 About a year after Pentecost of the year 33, Saul, who later became known as Paul, was also anointed with holy spirit. God’s spirit gave Paul the ability to do things that still benefit us today. For example, holy spirit inspired him to write 14 books of the Bible. In the same way that it helped Peter, holy spirit helped Paul to understand and write about the hope of immortal and incorruptible life in heaven. Also by holy spirit, Paul expelled demons, cured sick people, and even resurrected someone! But Paul had received power through holy spirit to do something even more important. God’s servants receive power to do the same today, even though they do not receive it in a miraculous way.
10. How did holy spirit help Paul to speak?
10 Paul, who was “filled with holy spirit,” spoke courageously against a sorcerer. The proconsul of Cyprus listened to the whole conversation. He was very impressed with what Paul said and accepted the truth. The Bible says that this man “was astounded at the teaching of Jehovah.” (Acts 13:8-12) Clearly, Paul knew that only God’s spirit could give him the ability to speak the truth with courage. (Matthew 10:20) He later asked the congregation in Ephesus to continue to pray for him that “ability to speak” might be given to him.—Ephesians 6:18-20.
11. How was Paul guided by God’s spirit?
11 The holy spirit helped Paul to speak, but it sometimes did not allow Paul to speak in certain places. Paul was guided by holy spirit in his missionary journeys. (Acts 13:2; read Acts 16:6-10.) Jehovah still uses his spirit to guide the preaching work today. Like Paul, all of Jehovah’s obedient servants do their best to preach the truth with courage and zeal. Even though the way God uses his spirit to direct us is different from the way he directed Paul, we can be sure that through his spirit Jehovah still “draws” sincere ones to the truth.—John 6:44.
“VARIETIES OF OPERATIONS”
12-14. Does God’s spirit operate in the same way on all his servants? What are some ways in which God’s spirit operates on his servants?
12 It is very encouraging to us today to read about the way Jehovah blessed the congregation of anointed ones in the first century. The holy spirit gave Christians at that time special abilities, or “gifts.” When Paul wrote to the congregation in Corinth about these gifts, he said: “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 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11) Paul said that the holy spirit can operate, or work, on different servants of God for a specific purpose. Both the “little flock” and the “other sheep” are guided by holy spirit. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) But it does not always operate in the same way on each member of the congregation.
13 For example, elders are appointed by holy spirit. (Acts 20:28) But not all Christians who are anointed with holy spirit serve as elders in the congregation. This means that God’s spirit operates in different ways on the members of the congregation.
14 The spirit that makes the anointed sure that they are adopted as sons of God is the same spirit that Jehovah used to resurrect Jesus to life in heaven. (Read Romans 8:11, 15.) Jehovah used that same spirit to create the whole universe. (Genesis 1:1-3) Jehovah also used the same spirit to give Bezalel greater ability to do special work on the tabernacle. The same spirit gave Samson amazing strength to do things no one else could do and helped Peter to walk on water. So to be guided by God’s spirit is not the same as to be anointed with God’s spirit. To be anointed with holy spirit is only one special way in which God’s spirit operates. It is God who chooses those whom he anoints with his spirit.
15. Will anointing with God’s holy spirit continue forever? Why do you answer that way?
15 God’s holy spirit has always operated on his faithful servants in many different ways. It had been operating on them for thousands of years before God started to anoint people. Anointing with holy spirit began at Pentecost of the year 33, but it will not continue forever. Although anointing will end, holy spirit will continue to operate on God’s people to help them do his will forever.
16. What are Jehovah’s servants doing today with the help of the holy spirit?
16 What are Jehovah’s servants doing now with the help of the 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.” With the help of the holy spirit, Christians today invite “anyone that wishes” to take life’s water. Anointed Christians take the lead in doing this, and the other sheep join them in this work. Both groups are guided by the same holy spirit. Both have shown their dedication to Jehovah by being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) And all of them show the fruitage of the spirit in their lives. (Galatians 5:22, 23) With the help of God’s spirit, they do their best to have a clean way of life that pleases God.—2 Corinthians 7:1; Revelation 7:9, 14.
KEEP ASKING FOR HOLY SPIRIT
17. How can you show that you have God’s spirit?
17 So whether you hope to live forever in heaven or on earth, Jehovah can give you “the power beyond what is normal” so that you can keep your integrity to the end. (2 Corinthians 4:7) People may be unkind to you and make fun of you because of the preaching work. But if you do not allow that to stop you from preaching, you show that you have God’s spirit. 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 Peter 4:14.
18, 19. How will Jehovah use his holy spirit to help you? What should you continue to do?
18 God gives holy spirit freely to those who sincerely ask for it. It can improve your abilities and increase 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 help of holy spirit, along with your efforts to keep “a tight grip on the word of life,” will allow you to “keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”—Philippians 2:12, 13, 16.
19 With complete trust in God’s spirit, then, work hard at what Jehovah asks you to do, become good at it, and ask Jehovah for his help. (James 1:5) He will give you the help you need to understand his Word, endure life’s problems, and preach the good news. Jesus promised: “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.” (Luke 11:9, 13) This includes asking for holy spirit. So continue asking Jehovah that you may be like all those faithful servants of God who were guided by holy spirit.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Immortal and incorruptible life: Eternal life in a spirit body that cannot be destroyed and does not decay
▪ Appoint: To select a person for a special work according to the direction of God’s spirit
▪ Anoint: To pour out holy spirit upon a person. When Jehovah anoints a person, He gives him the hope of everlasting life in heaven
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
▪ In what way can we imitate Mary and be blessed?
▪ How was Paul guided by God’s spirit?
▪ How are God’s servants guided by God’s spirit today?
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Like Mary, are you willing to do the work that Jehovah wants you to do?
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Holy spirit can give you courage to preach as it did Peter
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God’s spirit can give you the ability to speak the truth as it did Paul
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Holy spirit will continue to help God’s people to do his will forever
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God’s spirit enabled Paul to overcome wicked spirits
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Both the anointed and the other sheep receive holy spirit and are guided by it