THE EASTWARD SPIRIT
Time once was when Pentecostals were known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They also claimed that they had experienced a subsequent to salvation experience with the Spirit that opened the door to the gifts of the Spirit described in First Corinthians 12 and 14. In the early days of modern Pentecostalism, it was common for there to be a time in the church service where the worshipers would wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to use an audible gift of the Spirit – such as a message in tongues. Pentecostals understood the apostle Paul’s reference to singing in the Spirit (1Cor. 14:15) as creating space during the singing of the praise songs to have ‘free worship’. For the first five decades of the twentieth century Pentecostal churches spread at a moderate rate. But as traditional churches began to abandon God’s Word, Christians from mainline churches began to drift into Pentecostal churches and also experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit. But many ‘mainline’ churches during the 1960s and 70s also embraced the Holy Spirit and the ‘charismatic’ gifts described in First Corinthians. This became known as ‘the Charismatic renewal’. Through the 1980s the number of Spirit-filled believers and churches grew exponentially around the world, including Australia. But both Pentecostals and Charismatics were subject to some excesses through the 90s and naughties – but they also increasingly experienced ‘mission-drift’. A part of that mission-drift was an unfortunate reluctance to expound what the Scriptures taught about the Holy Spirit and the believer’s fellowship with Him.
The Old Covenant prophets foretold of the coming New Covenant and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, Peter declared, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16-17). But it was the prophet Ezekiel who received the most dramatic vision of the coming outpouring the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 47:1-12).
The Bible seems to use the directions east and west very intentionally. Whenever people rebelled against God, they headed east. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they were driven east out of the Garden of Eden.
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
The Old Testament prophets described the eastern cities of Nineveh and Babylon as centres of evil and wickedness. But when people responded to God, they journeyed west. Think of Abram being called to leave Haran and travel west to Canaan. Think of the Jews in exile who repented and were permitted to leave Babylon and return west to the land of Israel. Then consider that when God gave Moses the plans for the tabernacle, entrance was only possible by travelling west, and the Holy of Holies was located in the western most precinct of the tabernacle perimeter.
When the Magi came from the east (Matt. 2:1) to find Him who was born King of the Jews (unlike Herod who was appointed King by the Romans) the headed west to find Christ. And when the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas on their first missions trip, the apostles first headed west (Acts 13:4). The vision of the New Covenant that Ezekiel was shown by the Holy Spirit was a magnificently much larger temple than the one that had recently been destroyed by the Babylonians. The prophet Haggai also had a vision of the New Covenant in which he too described it as a temple (or least referred to Christ as the new Temple) and said-
The latter glory of this house [to come] shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.
What Ezekiel foresaw was the water of the Holy Spirit flowing out from this new and glorious temple eastward (Ezekiel 47:1). In fact, the further east that the water of the Holy Spirit was to flow, the deeper the water of the Spirit got for Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:5). While several of the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics included the notion that the deeper life of being filled and baptised with the Holy Spirit was merely for what happened within the four walls of a church service, Ezekiel vision of the New Covenant outpouring of the Holy Spirit was eastward – toward those who were away from God. In fact, the further these people were from the temple, the deeper the water of the Holy Spirit was, in Ezekiel’s vision. We should understand this as Ezekiel seeing that those whom God was to call into the New Covenant, would be sent by the Holy Spirit with His anointing to go to the lost — the very lost — and this is why the Spirit’s anointing on them would increase the further ‘east’ they were to go. This is why, even today, when Christians take the gospel to the people of the hardest, darkest, most resistant places on earth, the signs and wonders that accompany the preaching of the gospel are often the greatest.
¶ And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.
First Thessalonians 1:5
This is why the presence and power of the Holy Spirit within the community of believers, the local church, is given to edify, console, and mature, guide, and empower believers to serve. This Sunday I will be delivering the third instalment of the five-part The SPIRIT Series. It is my hope that we can be a church that truly experiences the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and all the more so for those of us whom the Lord will call to take the gospel ‘eastward’.
5 Things We Need To Do To Break Our Church’s 200 Barrier, Premium Audio
A GRIEF REVEALED: Stories of Finding and Navigating Your Way Through Loss, by Karen A. Mace$29.95
Apologetics Part 1 – Introduction To Apologetics, Premium Audio
Apologetics Part 2 – The Apologetic Arguments For God, Premium Audio