Is the Holy Spirit scary and unpredictable?
As we near the prophesied return of Christ and the end of this age one of the evidences of this era will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Reciting the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-29) on the day of Pentecost, Peter announced
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18).
Hmm… So what might that look like if we were to surrender to the Holy Spirit as I have been blogging these past few days? Would He grab hold of us and make us do scary and unpredictable things? Would we lose all self-control? Go mad?
Paul, writing to the Corinthians, speaks extensively in chapter 14 about the vocal gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the same chapter he writes also about maintaining order in God’s church. In part, he writes
“Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (v.26). This implies that the speaker retains some sort of filtering control.
“If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.” (v.27-28). Evidently, the speaker can keep track of when the limit is reached, reason when no interpreter is present, and “keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.” (v.28).
Paul goes on…
“Two or three prophets should speak” (v. 29), again indicating control, “and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” Such utterances are not to be taken at face value as pure messages from God. Each believer must “weigh carefully” what is said and receive from God that to which the Holy Spirit within them bears witness. “And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.” (v.30) – again, control over the “gift” is evident.
And here is the summary bottom line of all Paul has above stated: “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.” (v. 32). The speaker retains control. “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace… everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (v.33, 34).
I once listened to a high school band play the theme from Star Wars. The budding musicians gave the piece their best shot, but in spots some of the timing was noticeably off, and a good number of wrong notes were played. But it was easy to perceive the intended tune and a bit of a tingle still ran up my spine as I imagine those opening credits slide into deep space. The performance might not have been everything composer John Williams had in mind back in 1977, but it was easy to discern the errors and I left more inspired than had the musicians refused to play.
Learning to let the Spirit blow through us requires submission, cooperation, courage and practice. We will not get it right on the first few tries. Playing in a high school band requires the same components, but the possibility of errors is no reason to leave the orchestra! As Paul says, “eagerly desire,“ “Do not quench,” despise not,” “be eager,” “do not forbid,” and do all “in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Cor. 14:1, 39, 1 These. 5:19-20).
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