Study 5 THE SEVEN-FOLD MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT
DAYS OF HEAVEN UPON EARTH
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Acts 13:1-13)
In this study we consider Acts 13:1-13, where we have a seven-fold picture of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), of which all believers are members.
The Book of Acts is rightly ‘The Acts of the Holy Spirit’; that is, His activity in and through the church. In the four Gospels we see Him operating through the perfect human body of the Lord Jesus; in Acts, however, we see Him working through the mystical body of Christ – the church. In the Gospels we have the record of “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1) during the three years of His public ministry; but the Acts records all that He continued to do from the throne, by the Holy Spirit, through the church.
1. The First Act of the Holy Spirit is to initiate or form the Church.
Notice the words in verse 1 – “the church at Antioch…” How did the church begin? When we speak of the church we mean that invisible organism consisting of all born-again believers. The Holy Spirit forms the church (Acts 15:14-15); but what is true of the church is true of a church, that is, a local assembly of Christians. Whether in Antioch or anywhere else, the initiation of the church or a church is not the work of man but of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 11:19-21 we see how the church at Antioch started: the ‘Word of God’ was preached, and as people heard it the Holy Spirit worked; those who believed were born again, and at once there was a church – Matthew 18:20. The Church is not a religious meeting but a company of born-again believers.
2. The Second Act of the Holy Spirit is to give gifts to the Church.
Verse 1 tells us that in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, but many other gifts were operative as well. There is no such thing as a one-man ministry. In every true church initiated by and administrated by the Holy Spirit many gifts are in operation. One man, or several, may be set aside for the position of leadership, ministry and pastoral oversight, but this does not constitute ‘a one-man ministry’. Look at 1 Corinthians 12, and notice verses 4,7,8-10,28. Every believer has some gift, and when the Holy Spirit is honoured and obeyed many gifts are in operation. What is your gift? Are you at His disposal for Him to use you in the way of His choice?
3. The Third Act of the Holy Spirit is to unite believers together in one living Fellowship.
Only He can do this! He takes men and women of different temperaments, nationalities and social positions and makes them “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This is a miracle! Compare the names mentioned in verse 1. Barnabas was a Levite; Simeon was a black man; Lucius was a Gentile; Manaen was brought up with Herod in the royal court; and Saul was a Hebrew and a Pharisee. Only the Holy Spirit could unite these different men where, naturally speaking, there was variety and diversity.
4. The Fourth Act of the Holy Spirit is to call out His chosen instruments for special service.
While every member of the body of Christ has some gift, some are called by the Holy Spirit and set aside for specific ministry – which is always missionary in its emphasis. In verse 2 we read that “the Holy Spirit said…” and the whole object of the Holy Spirit’s calling of these two men was that of evangelism. He still calls men and women in the same way today. His call must always precede our going, but His call is easily recognisable, for it is specific, personal – He calls by name, as He did Barnabas and Saul. Is God calling you to some specialised ministry at home or abroad? Look up Hebrews 12:25.
5. The Fifth Act of the Holy Spirit is to equip and send forth those whom He chooses and calls.
Look at verses 3 and 4. Barnabas and Saul were not subjected to any official ‘ordination’. The laying-on of hands was an act of identification on the part of the local church; it is significant to notice that they “sent them off” (verse 3), and that they were also “sent on their way by the Holy Spirit” (verse 4). Here is the administration of the Holy Spirit and the co-operation of the local church. When He sends, He equips. He gives all necessary grace (2 Corinthians 12:9), wisdom (James 1:5), and guidance concerning the places in which testimony is to be given – Seleucia, Cyprus…
6. The Sixth Act of the Holy Spirit is to overcome opposition.
In every Spirit-born work there will be opposition. Wherever the Holy Spirit is working the Devil is also at work. We have an example of this in verses 6-11. Satan sought to hinder through a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet (verse 6), who opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith (verse 8). The Holy Spirit dealt with this situation, however, and He did it through Paul (verses 9-11). Paul did the speaking (verse 10), but he was only the channel (verse 9). How much better it is, when problems arise in Christian work, to let the Holy Spirit solve them! We often write letters, hold councils or committees, and there are reasonings and misunderstandings. If only we would learn to wait upon God and to ask Him by the Holy Spirit to drive out the Enemy! He promised to do it – Isaiah 59:19.
7. The Seventh Act of the Holy Spirit is to save souls.
Verse 12 tells us that “when the proconsul saw what had happened”, he “believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord”. Satan always over-steps the mark if we know how to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in times of difficulty and crisis; and more than this, the Holy Spirit even uses the Devil’s efforts to accomplish His purposes, and His primary purpose is always the salvation of souls.