Spiritual War Bible Studies

Spiritual War Bible Studies => First Thessalonians => Study #2 => Topic started by: Hidden In Him on May 22, 2013, 02:54:56 PM

Title: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Part 1
Post by: Hidden In Him on May 22, 2013, 02:54:56 PM
The Return Of The Holy Spirit And Power, Part 1

     What was the principle reason why the harvest was taking place during New Testament times? The answer from the passage we now come to is demonstrations of the Holy Spirit and Power. These are what led the Thessalonians to spread the news of everything the apostles had done far and wide throughout the surrounding regions.
     As Paul reminded them:

     For our good news did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and in great assurance, just as you know what type of men we were among you for your sakes. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit amidst great tribulation, so that you became examples to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord rang out not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but even in every place where your faith towards God has reached to, such that there is no need for us to have to say anything. For they themselves relate concerning us what entrance we had unto you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the True and Living God, and await His Son from Heaven whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, the One delivering us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:5-10)

     While many still revered the gods and goddesses of the Greeks, these "gods" rarely if ever actually manifested themselves on anyone's behalf. They generally remained as distant and remote from the lives of their worshippers as the stone idols that represented them. The God the apostles were preaching, however, was different. Whatever miracles and works of power were performed among them, Paul records that they were strong enough to cause the Thessalonians to "turn from worshipping idols to serve the True and Living God."


     This was the general rule during New Testament times. Wherever the gospel was being preaching, it was being followed by demonstrations of His Power and outpourings of the Holy Spirit to provide divine assurance that the words the apostles were speaking were not merely their own but those of God.
     As Paul later will later tell them in this letter:

     And because of this we give thanks to God incessantly, that, having received the word which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which among you who believe is also now coming to realization. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

     As we shall now see from numerous passages, it has always been part of God's plan that the gospel be confirmed by demonstrations of the Holy Spirit and power to serve as assurance from God that the words His servants speak were ultimately not coming from them but from God Himself. Our modern attempts to bring about spiritual "harvests" by means of politics, Christian entertainment and seeker-friendly churches is a superficial substitute which in the end will ultimately prove to have been largely a waste of time. We are converting men to yet another dead religion rather than into a genuine experience with the True and Living God.   

The Harvest, And Demonstrations Of God's Power

     From the very beginning, demonstrations of God's power were a crucial element in bringing the harvest. This is clearly evident in what took place even during Christ's Own ministry. It was not merely His teachings that were drawing people to Him; the word itself states that it was His miracles and works of power that were leading great multitudes to believe in Him and become followers:

     In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an unclean spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to unclean spirits and they come out!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:33-37)

     While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. (Luke 5:12-15)

     So, too, was it the case with the disciples. When Pentecost came, they received power from on high just as the Lord Jesus Christ had promised, and gave evidence that He was indeed alive from the dead by publicly announcing the gospel to Jews of every nation by speaking in tongues, a supernatural miracle which moved thousands to convert on the very first day:

     But [Jesus] said to them... "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
     When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest upon each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
     Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
     Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 1:7-8, 2:1-8, 41 NIV)

    Notice how Jesus began by drawing a very clear connection here with the words, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts states that they indeed went on to perform even greater miracles and wonders, ones that were causing new souls to convert to Christianity every day:
     Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles... And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43, 47)

     This, then, is evidently what took place among the Thessalonians. That the apostles presented the gospel to them "in the Holy Spirit and power" was not, as some teach, that they were merely preaching it with "great forcefulness and conviction." This was not about preaching style. Rather, the Thessalonians came to know the Lord because Paul, Silas and Timothy were giving demonstrations of God's supernatural power, and "confirming the word with signs and wonders following."

Why The Church Lost The Power Of God

      If the church is ever to get the power of God back, it must first understand why it was lost. As will be seen, the key to the presence and power of God being maintained within the early church was in fact corporate prayer, and for the first 150 years or so after Christ rose from the dead this remained a common practice within the early Church. This is evidenced by quotes from some of the early fathers, who specifically attributed the miraculous works still taking place to the corporate prayers of the saints.
     Comparing Christian signs and wonders to those the Gnostic magicians were doing through the power of demonic spirits, Irenaeus stated:

       Those also will be confuted who belong to Simon and Carpocrates, and if there are any others who are said to perform "miracles." For they perform what they do neither through the power of God, nor in conjunction with the truth, nor for the well-being of men... They can neither confer sight on the blind, nor hearing upon the deaf, nor expel all sorts of demons - except those who are sent into others by themselves... And so far are they from being able to raise the dead that they do not even believe that this can possibly be done. However, the Lord raised the dead, and the apostles likewise did so by means of prayer, and this has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity. When the entire church in that particular locality entreated God with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man was returned, and he has been bestowed in answer to the prayers of the saints. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, XXXI, 2, 180 A.D)
     But unfortunately, the church did not continue to maintain these habits. Within another 70 years or so, the church would show signs that operating in the supernatural gifts was in strong decline, as evident from men like Origen making repeated references to there now being only "traces" of the gifts left, as opposed to when the apostles were still alive:

     "… we must believe [the signs and wonders of the apostles] to have been performed... on this, that traces of those signs and wonders are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the teachings of the Gospel." (Origen, Against Celsus, Ch.II, 248 A.D.). And again in another place, "… the apostles of Jesus… could not without the help of miracles and wonders have prevailed upon those who heard their new doctrines… and there are still preserved among Christians traces of that Holy Spirit who appeared in the form of a dove. They expel evil spirits, perform many cures, and foresee certain events, according to the will of [Christ], the Word." (Origen, Against Celsus, Ch.XLVI, 248 A.D.)

     Why were they now seeing only traces of the gifts whereas before the church was experiencing full manifestations of them during New Testament times? The answer is they stopped seeking God earnestly for them in prayer. Origen acknowledged in his teachings that it was primarily through supplication and prayer that the fire of the Holy Spirit fell as on Pentecost, writing in one place:

     "When going up to the upper chamber, like the apostles of Jesus, [the perfected Christian] gives himself to supplication and prayer, that he may become worthy of receiving the mighty wind rushing from heaven, which is powerful to destroy sin and its fruits among men, and [become] worthy of having some share of the tongue of fire which God sends." (Origen, Against Celsus VIII:22)

     Yet by and large, the churches were no longer giving themselves to supplication and prayer, as is evident from something Cyprian wrote around this same time period. Writing around 250 A.D., he warned that God had reproached him in a vision concerning how prayer was now falling by the wayside in many of the churches:

     "Let us urgently pray and groan with continual petitions. Know this, beloved brethren, that I was not long ago reproached in a vision about this also, that we were lethargic in our prayers, and did not pray with watchfulness... Therefore let us strike off, and break away from the bonds of sleep, and pray with urgency and watchfulness… for the apostles also ceased not to pray day and night." (Cyprian, Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle VII, 5, 250 A.D.)

     The Church had become lackadaisical in prayer, and this is precisely the reason why the spiritual gifts were now disappearing from the churches. Within another 150 years or so, Chrysostom would write that the gifts had now become little more than a distant memory:

     Truly the Church was more like Heaven in Paul's time, in that the Spirit governed everything and moved each one of the members in turn. But now it seems we have merely the symbols of those gifts. We likewise only have two or three speaking in a service, but these are only a pale shadow of what prevailed then... The present church is like a woman who has fallen from her former prosperous days, and retains only the outward signs of that prosperity, displaying the boxes and caskets within which she once kept her wealth, but which are now empty. This is true not only in the matter of the gifts, but in life and virtue as well. (Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, XXXVI, 7, 390 A.D.)

Today's Church Now Provides False Assurances

     The Church still has not recovered from this lackadaisicalness in prayer. We are still waiting for the return of powerful operations in the gifts of the Spirit because we have still not given ourselves back to intensive corporate prayer. And part of the reason for this is because many of our leaders have taken to the habit of simply providing false assurances to their congregations rather than telling them the truth: That if they want to see the power of God return, they will have to pay the price for it through incessant corporate prayer and fasting.
     But instead many are being told how much "power" they operate in, when in fact very little is actually happening in the spirit or natural realm. Michael L. Brown wrote about this phenomenon back in 1991, and unfortunately very little has changed since then:

     There are many who claim to have great faith. They rebuke demons by the thousands and dispatch angels by the millions. They decree supernatural blessings and impart incredible anointings. But talk is cheap. If so much is happening in the spirit realm, where is the proof in the natural world?
     In 1989 I visited a large church in a large city in the Southeastern United States. The pastor boasted that his congregation had engaged in so much dynamic spiritual warfare that the demonic prince over their city was riddled with holes. In fact, the pastor wondered how this satanic agent was even standing any longer. Yet when I rode up and down the streets of a busy part of that city I was shocked: There was a tremendous increase in worldliness and promiscuity since my last visit there ten years before. Even the pornography industry had greatly taken hold. The devil certainly wasn't aware that he had been defeated. (Brown, Whatever Happened To The Power Of God, P.76-77)

     To help make it seem that something truly great is occurring, such "dynamic spiritual warfare" is often conducted at maximum volume, as if the louder such "prayers" are shouted the more authority they will carry. As Brown related in another place:

     David Wilkerson relates the all too common story of a discouraged pastor who said, "My church would stand with me for hours thundering in tongues: binding principalities and powers. We've bound the enemy from the east, west, north and south but the city only gets worse. There is no evidence of a change." (Brown, Whatever Happened To The Power Of God, P.77-78) 

     The power of God does not manifest as a result of either the volume or multitude of our words. It manifests as a result of the Source behind those words. If it is not Christ Himself speaking through us, our words will have no authority in them, no matter how much volume or forcefulness they may be spoken with. Nothing will take place in the natural if no true spiritual authority is present in the spiritual. The angels of God only respond when the voice of Christ Himself is speaking through the church as they are truly being led by the Spirit, and many today naively assume Christ is speaking through them when in fact He is not. Religious performances are little more than just that: Performances. And they are in no way a replacement for genuine, hard-fought corporate prayer and intercession.
     Worst of all, faked "prayer services" can have particularly detrimental effects upon those new to the faith. Instead of manifestations of the power of God providing genuine assurance that the gospel is indeed true, such "manifestations" only work to undermine the faith of believers and lead to their spiritual disillusionment. Eventually they pause in the middle of the excitement, look around, and suspect that what's going on may actually be a fraud. And faced with the prospect that the services they attend are merely a performance, some eventually come to the conclusion that the entire Christian faith is a lie and depart from the faith altogether, never to return.

Corporate Prayer And God's End-Time Army

     What will it take for the power of God to return and the true harvest to again begin taking place as it did in New Testament times? It does have to be acknowledged that there were actually a couple of factors at work. For starters, the apostles were preaching the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Living God cannot and will not confirm misrepresentations of His word, and unfortunately much of the "gospel" presented today is so badly corrupted that it no longer bears much resemblance to the original.
     But when the church's doctrines were pure, scripture suggests corporate prayer was the reason the power of God came upon them. What were the disciples doing just prior to Pentecost? According to Christ's instructions, they were in the upper room giving themselves to incessant corporate prayer:

     [Jesus said to them], "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth"... Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying... They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:8, 12-14 NIV)

     That this is what will facilitate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts again in the end-times is confirmed by a vision God gave Rick Joyner back in 2004, entitled "The Turning." After asking God where the church was spiritually, the Lord gave him the following vision in response:

     I asked this question: "Where are we?" I believe He gave me this as an answer to it. I saw the Church like a fleet of ships at sea... this fleet was made up of all different types of vessels. Having been in the Navy I recognized most of them. There were some Aircraft Carriers, there were Battleships, all kinds of other gunboats like Cruisers and everything else...
     This fleet kept sailing, and they would go one way and then the other. One ship would start turning, and a whole bunch of ships would follow it. Another one would go this way, and a bunch of them would try to follow that way. But because they kept zigzagging all over the place, they entered this incredible fog... and every time they got in the fog there were all kinds of collisions, and they were running into each other and sinking each other just by running into each other. It was a terrible, terrible sight.
     Then orders came to the fleet, and they came in a code. The code said "Acts 1:14-15 would bring to pass Acts 2." That's the Book of Acts, Chapter 1, verses 14 and 15 would bring to pass Acts, Chapter 2. That was the coded message for the fleet. They all heard it. That is what was shocking: They all heard it.
     Now I want to read Acts, Chapter 1, 14-15. It says, "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer." I believe we are going to see a continual devotion to prayer coming upon the Church...

    That these ships were crashing into one another represents how the churches currently have no unified sense of direction from God. Many copy one another in adopting whatever new teaching fad happens to be coming along. Yet whenever their doctrines begin running counter to each other, theological clashes result, and infighting ensues until a new "heading" is settled upon. Yet as this vision points out, eventually the entire Church will come to understand the true direction they need to be headed in - incessant corporate prayer - though it will take quite some time before this message is received and applied:

     In this vision, the fleet interpreted this code to mean that the whole fleet was supposed to turn to a heading of 120 degrees. It was the first time they all had a heading and a direction... It represented about a 180 degree turn... It was a big, sweeping right turn, and it took a long time. You can turn a speedboat around almost in a literal circle, but a Battleship or an Aircraft Carrier - it takes miles to turn that thing around. The turning began, but it's going to take a while to see the whole thing get going in the right direction. But it has begun.

     Also clearly stated in the vision was the fact that it will be only AFTER the Church finally gives herself to incessant corporate prayer that the harvest finally begins:

     As soon as they all got on that heading, they came out of the fog... Then they decoded Acts, Chapter 2, the second part of that message... This Chapter, of course, is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the harvest, and that is what they interpreted: That there could be no harvest without the Holy Spirit, and every ship had to seek the Holy Spirit...
     As soon as this part was completed, it was like ... thousands of fishing vessels all came and joined the fleet... These are the harvesters, these are the evangelists. There were thousands, and I tell you, this sea was so full of life, it was so ready to be harvested. (Joyner, "The Turning")
     As we shall cover more in Part 2 of this study, great works of power WILL eventually be restored to the Church, yet it will be through those who understand the price that must be paid to get them back through prayer. They will be willing to devote their lives to it, so as to again begin providing genuine assurances that the gospel is indeed true.