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Acts 19:1-41 ESV (Read live at both campuses) SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re returning to the book of Acts today — continuing our journey following the apostle Paul. And today’s verses — which you’ve heard read at your campus already — will take us back to something we looked at in the beginning of the year. It was during the series on my prayers for us as a congregation. One of my prayers — that I trust many of you are praying for as well — is that we would be a congregation who lives under the authority of God’s Word and by the power of God’s Spirit. And — our verses for today — give us a glimpse of what this can look like in the people of God. And it’s a powerful picture. A life of following Jesus that — I dare say — is foreign spiritual territory for many Christians in the west.
So — a warning to you — what we’ll encounter may be a bit unsettling because we’re so used to our Christian faith being focused on how we think and what we do with often little regard for the somewhat mysterious spiritual side of our faith — where the practice of our Christian faith goes beyond the natural world and into the supernatural world. We American evangelicals are comfortable with the Word of God — the Bible — and the principles and theology it teaches. But the Spirit of God — well — we don’t really know how to relate to the Holy Spirit. So — today — will begin to dip our toes into this fundamental aspect of the Christian faith and explore the third person of the Trinity — the Holy Spirit.
Now — if you’re not a Christian — first of all — I’m so glad you’re here. And — second — know that what you’re hearing today will mainly be directed at believers in Jesus — to Christians. But think of today as an opportunity to learn more about what the Christian faith is all about. Allow this to be a day of discovery for you — as it may be to many who are Christians as well. A day to discover more about what Christians believe. And here’s something that may surprise you: You have permission to let us know how well what we believe and how we live — align. We’re giving you permission today to watch us carefully. Are we Christians behaving as if we really believe what we say we believe? How’s that for an unexpected opportunity?
THE DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
So — let’s begin with a basic truth of the Christian faith — something that should be an easy first step for us today. The basic truth I’m referring to is that the Holy Spirit is God — is divine — let’s begin by looking at the deity of the Holy Spirit.
In our verses — Paul has returned to the city Ephesus. In the Bible — Ephesus is an important city. And the congregation in this city gets quite a bit of real estate in the New Testament. Not only do we read about this church in the book of Acts, but there’s a letter written by Paul to them — Ephesians — two letters written to Timothy while he’s pastoring this church — and in the book of Revelation — the church in Ephesus is one of the seven churches to receive a letter from Jesus. So this is an important city and congregation in the early church.
But — when he returns to the city — Paul comes across some disciples who — like Apollos from a few weeks ago — have some misunderstandings that need to be addressed. And — here in Ephesus — the Holy Spirit is the subject of their misunderstanding. We see this in verse two — when Paul asks the disciples — “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:2b-5 ESV)
Now this is an interesting account where we’re seeing the message of the gospel being spread but not always with full clarity and accuracy. These disciples in Ephesus haven’t heard about the Holy Spirit. They’ve only been baptized in John’s baptism — that’s John the baptist — which our verses make obvious was different from the baptism Jesus commands us to do. I’m referring to the baptism found at the end of Matthew’s gospel — where we read, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)
The baptism of Jesus — that Paul refers to — is a Trinitarian baptism — a baptism done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a wonderful mysterious truth of our Christian faith. We Christians believe that there is only one God. And — yet — this one God is three Persons — Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Three distinct Persons — each fully God — yet we don’t worship three gods — we worship One God. Like I said — a wonderful mysterious truth.
But — like these disciples in Ephesus — for some Christians today — it’s as if many could say, “I’ve never heard of the Holy Spirit either.” Now I know that — most — if not all Christians have actually heard of the Holy Spirit. But in a practical sense — the Holy Spirit is — as one author has said — the Forgotten God (Francis Chan). We’re comfortable with God the Father. We’re familiar with God the Son. Yet we’re not sure how to relate to God the Holy Spirit.
So — first things first — let’s be assured that the Holy Spirit is God. The deity of the Holy Spirit is something we saw earlier in the book of Acts. Way back in chapter five — when we read of the sins of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira — the apostle Peter confronts Ananias saying, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (Acts 5:3b-11 ESV)
Here Peter makes it clear that — in lying to the Holy Spirit — Ananias and Sapphira had lied to God — because — the Holy Spirit is God. And — in being God — the Holy Spirit shares the same attributes — or characteristics — that we think of when we think of God. For example, the Holy Spirit is eternal. In reflecting on the cleansing power of the blood of Christ — the author of Hebrews writes, “Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.” (Hebrews 9:14 NLT)
And — in being eternal — the Spirit existed before creation and was present during the creation of all things. We see this in the opening words of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2 NLT)
The Holy Spirit is omnipresent — which means he is present everywhere. We find this truth expressed in the words of King David when he writes, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night — 12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.” (Psalm 139:7-12a NLT)
Additionally, the Holy Spirit is active in our salvation. From the preaching of the gospel to our being born again to our being sealed and preserved for the eternal day of glory — the Holy Spirit is active in all of these parts of our salvation.
The apostle Peter writes, “And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Peter 1:12b NLT)
The Holy Spirit is active in the preaching and proclaiming of the gospel — the means by which people hear, respond, and are saved.
Paul tells us, “But — when God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7 NLT)
The Holy Spirit is active in our new birth — the moment we’re given new life — what you may know as being born again. This is what Jesus tells Nicodemus — in John chapter three — when he says the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life to our spirits — spiritual life we need given to us because we're all born spiritually dead in our sins from the moment of our physical birth.
Paul also writes, “And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” (Ephesians 1:13b-14 NLT)
The inheritance guaranteed to the people of God is eternal life. A guarantee that has been sealed — stamped — promised to happen — because of the Holy Spirit. And — in hearing these truths and in believing them — our response is to be one of praise and worship.
These are just a few reasons why every Christian must believe in the deity of the Holy Spirit — that the Holy Spirit is God.
THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now — my guess is that there’s little controversy among us regarding what we’ve just observed about the Holy Spirit. Where confusion often begins is where we turn to next — the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
After baptizing the disciples — in verse 6 we read — “Paul had laid his hands on them, [and] the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God…11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them…21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” (Acts 19:6b-8, 11-12, 21 ESV)
Let’s explore the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Our verses give us a few examples of the Spirit’s gifts — speaking in tongues, prophecy, speaking boldly, extraordinary miracles, and so on. But these aren’t the only gifts of the Spirit found in the Bible. But — before we get to these other biblical examples — let’s first define what a spiritual gift is — what are the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
One theologian writes, “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1016.) The author goes on to say, “This broad definition includes both gifts that are related to natural abilities (such as teaching, showing mercy, or administration) and gifts that seem to be more “miraculous” and less related to natural abilities (such as prophecy, healing, or distinguishing between spirits).” (Ibid.)This is why — earlier — I said that often faith — for Christians in the US — is a rational, thinking kind of faith. We’re comfortable and familiar with the gifts of teaching, showing mercy, administration, and leadership. But some of these other gifts of the Holy Spirit — well — we don’t know what to do with them because they feel so unnatural to us.
Another definition I found is that “Spiritual gifts are abilities given to individual believers by the Holy Spirit in order to equip God’s people for ministry, both for the edification of the church and for God’s salvific mission to the world.” (Lexham Survey of Theology).
Notice that all of these gifts are supernatural — they’re given to us by the Holy Spirit after all! So let’s be careful to not allow supernatural gifts — of any kind — to become natural in our view of them. I’ll explain what I mean by this in a moment.
So what are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Here are examples from Scripture.
In Romans we read, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadershipability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8 NLT)
Again — regardless if the spiritual gift is prophesying or serving or teaching or encouraging or giving or leading or showing kindness — they’re all supernatural gifts. Serving others or teaching the Bible may seem natural to us — but these are supernatural gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit.
In First Corinthians — Paul writes, “But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. Yet each person has a special gift from God, of one kind or another.”...“To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. 9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said…28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak inunknown languages.” (1 Corinthians 7:7; 12:8-10, 28 NLT)
And — in case you’re wondering — yes — singleness can be a supernatural gift from the Holy Spirit — given to a Christian — just like the other gifts Paul mentions.
In Ephesians we read, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11 NLT)
Now — these gifts seem to be offices — or leadership positions in the church — that are spiritual gifts given to the church by Christ. My point in bringing up this verse to show how these leadership roles have obvious Holy Spirit gifts that would accompany them. For example — the teachers — that are gifts to the church from Christ — will need the gift of teaching given to them by the Holy Spirit.
So those are some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Scripture. Something else to know about these gifts — that Paul tells us — is that which gifts are given to individual Christians is up to the Holy Spirit. “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” (1 Corinthians 12:11 NLT)
Additionally, the Holy Spirit gives every Christian at least one spiritual gift. A gift — not to be used for themselves — but for others. “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NLT)
And — finally — all spiritual gifts are to be used to build up and strengthen the church. “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 NLT)
Now that we know what spiritual gifts are and why they’re given — here’s something not so great about the spiritual gifts: Certain spiritual gifts have been points of division among the people of God. I know, I know — it’s hard to imagine divisiveness in the church — but it happens. And the gifts of the Spirit have been a dividing point among Christians — even today. The gifts most controversial being gifts that have been called the “charismatic gifts.” Prophesy. Speaking in tongues. Healing. Along with a few others. But — here’s why this division should baffle us: All of the gifts of the Spirit are charismatic. Here’s why I say this.
The English word “gift” — in all of the passages we’ve just read — comes from the Greek word charisma — which is where the word charismatic comes from. So the gift of teaching is just as charismatic as speaking in tongues. The spiritual gift of serving others is just as charismatic of a gift as the gift of healing. The gift of leadership is just as charismatic as the gift of prophecy. As I said earlier — this is why we must not allow seemingly “natural” gifts — teaching, leadership, serving others, and so on — to be anything but supernatural gifts of the Spirit of God.
So those are the spiritual gifts in Scripture and their purpose. But here’s something that may surprise you. In Scripture — as we’ve seen — the Spirit chooses who gets what gifts. Yet — in Scripture — we’re also commanded to desire the gifts of the Spirit. “So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31 NLT)
And — even more specifically — we’re commanded to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV)
“Is that a command — in the Bible — for us to desire the gift of prophecy? Yes it is.” And the Spirit of God — who knows all things — knew that the people of God would allow his gifts to cause division. Gifts meant to build each other up have become points of contention and debate among the people of God. So be amazed by the Spirit of God. In knowing that this is how we would treat his gracious gifts to us — in between the last verse of First Corinthians chapter 12 and the command to “earnestly desire the most helpful gifts” — and the first verse of First Corinthians chapter 14 where we’re commanded to “desire the spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” — in between these two commands is an entire chapter on the supernatural — Spirit of God empowered — love the people of God are to have for and demonstrate to one another as we pursue and desire the gifts of the Spirit.
The love chapter — hijacked by weddings — is actually a chapter meant to unify the people of God as they pursue the gifts of the Spirit together. The church in Corinth was a hot mess as people were using their spiritual gifts for personal gain and not for building each other up. Thus Paul takes three of the gifts — that God’s people are commanded to desire and pursue — gifts that apparently were controversial then just as they are today — speaking in tongues, prophecy, and faith — and begins the love chapter with them.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV)
With the next verse being, “Pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NLT)
But if I preach the most eloquent and engaging of sermons — better sermons than any preacher of our day — with tens of thousands of sermon downloads and views on YouTube — but I have not love — it’s all noise.
And if you serve others but have not love — you’ve done nothing of eternal value.
If you’re the largest giver to this church — even if you’re someone who gives all of your money away — or leads in a way that inspires others — or help everyone you come across who’s in need — or teach the kids in kidway every week — or use any of the gifts without love — it’s all for nothing.
The Spirit gives us these gifts and our love for one another is what makes our use of his gifts have eternal value. First Corinthians chapter thirteen love is hard enough in marriage — but it’s impossible in the church without the Spirit of God.
If you’re interested in learning more about the gifts of the Spirit — I’d recommend two places to begin. For those who have Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology — explore chapters 52 and 53. If you don’t have Grudem’s book — or maybe aren’t ready to jump into a systematic theology — Sam Storms has two helpful books on the spiritual gifts. One is titled The Beginner’s Guide to the Spiritual Gifts and the other is called Practicing the Power. If you didn’t catch those titles, go to our app or website where you can find a manuscript of this sermon and you’ll be able to find their information. But I’d encourage you to get one of these books and begin pursuing the gifts of the Spirit of God.
CONCLUSION: THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT
And now let’s see the results of the Word of God and the Spirit of God working together in the people of God. There’s something we gain when we live under the authority of the Word of God and by the power of the Spirit of God as the people of God. We’re in verse 9.
“But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks…17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. 18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.” (Acts 19:9-10, 17-20 ESV)
What are the results? The word of the Lord spread throughout all of Asia so that everyone heard the gospel. What an incredible picture of the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in and through the people of God. A mass spreading of the gospel where the Good News found its way throughout all of Asia. But this isn’t the only result.
There’s also the response of the people in Ephesus after some hucksters tried to mimic Paul’s ministry for selfish gain. After their demonic beatdown — a holy fear falls upon the people in the community and the name of Jesus was greatly honored. And this was no lip service — there’s a visible change in the people because of their belief in Christ. They confess their past sins — even when their repentance was financially costly. Fifty thousand pieces of silver doesn’t mean much to us but — in US dollars — we’re talking several million dollars. (Acts 19:19b NLT) And — after this act of repentance — one Bible translation states that the gospel “spread widely and had a powerful effect.” (Acts 19:20b NLT)
Because of their belief in Jesus the people handed over millions of dollars worth of items that they knew were not compatible with their new faith. An act displaying that Jesus was their Savior and Lord — evidence that the Spirit of God had given them a new life with new priorities — proof that God was sovereign over their life.
Which makes me wonder what it would look like for our faith community to display that Jesus is our Savior and Lord — in such a clear and compelling way — that it’d be obvious to all that God is sovereign over our lives? What things are we holding on to that aren’t compatible with our faith in Christ? What addictions, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors do we need to turn over — get rid of — put in a metaphorical pile and set it on fire — no matter what the cost might be to us personally? What in your life is keeping you from being fully devoted to Christ? What in our life together as a church — is keeping us from being fully devoted to Christ and his gospel going out to the nations?
Here’s the promise to us.
With the Word of God and the Spirit of God working together in the lives of the people of God — nothing will stop us from accomplishing the mission of God.
With the Word and the Spirit — nothing can stop us from making disciples of all nations.
Nothing can prevent us from using the gifts we’ve been given by the Spirit of God to build each other up — as we love each other — so the Good News of Jesus Christ spreads like wildfire.
There’s nothing of eternal value for us to lose — with the Word and the Spirit as our guide — the end result will only be for our good and God’s glory.
One last time. With the Word of God and the Spirit of God working together in our lives — as the people of God — nothing can stop us from accomplishing the mission of God.
Heavenly Father, thank you for saving us through the work of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, all of these gifts given to us are meant to be used to build each other up so that news about you spreads throughout the world. Forgive us for neglecting the gifts we’ve been given. Forgive us for using these gifts for personal gain or glory. And thank you for demonstrating the kind of love — that we’re to have for one another — to each of us first.
Spirit of God — help us to desire your spiritual gifts. Gifts that are for our good as a church. Gifts that are meant to build us up and strengthen us and empower us to do your work. Thank you for the gifts you’ve graciously given to us — to each of us — for there’s not one Christian among us — no matter their age or how long they’ve been a Christian — that hasn’t been given a gift that we need as a congregation. Help us each to use our gifts for the good of this faith family and for the glory of our God.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
May we all go pursuing the gifts of the Spirit of God while we live under the authority of the Word of God — so we accomplish the mission of God together. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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