Copyright © 2003 Ron Schwartz
The Operation Of the Holy Spirit In The Church
and the voice of the Holy Spirit
February 28, 2007
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Voice Of The Spirit
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give
power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they
be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
am convinced that most Christians and churches do NOT know how to hear the voice
of the Spirit. Gleaning truths
divined from the scripture is NOT the voice of the Spirit.
Basing your decision on biblical truths is not hearing the voice of the
Spirit. Coming to a consensus
through the counsel of others is not listening to the Spirit of God.
Instead of hearing the voice of the Spirit, most Christians have come to
accept presumption, cultural values, and our intellectual knowledge of the
scripture to dictate direction and answers.
Though truth can sometimes be found here, it is a poor replacement to
hearing what the Spirit has to say.
Christians and their respective churches have self-imposed and men-imposed
barriers that prevent them from hearing the voice of the Spirit.
Many times these barriers are based on biblically-founded truth or just
good practical common sense.
examine a few examples of barriers:
your women keep silence
seek to decipher direction for their lives and the church by reading the
scripture and attempting to follow it like a step-by-step direction manual, but
this can sometimes prove a faulty method, especially when trying to understand
scriptures that seem to be contradictory to others.
When this happens, it is important to understand the biblical theme
you consider the scriptures as a whole, you begin to see certain themes
occurring. I believe “biblical
themes” are certain inalienable truths that the apostles embraced and that
were reflected in their writing. For
instance, Western civilization embraces justice and freedom.
As a result, someone who embraces these values will unknowingly
communicate these virtues in their writing and speech even though they may not
directly address the subject. This
is because these values are a part of the way he thinks and are therefore
reflected in that which he communicates. This
is also true in the writings of the New Testament.
There are certain ideological truths like love, grace, and faith that
were embraced by the authors of the New Testament. These
values were at times subtly communicated in their writing.
They appear as themes in their writing.
Therefore, when we read a statement that seems to be in conflict with
other New Testament passages, we must look beyond the words and the Greek
meaning and seek to understand its theme as it is expressed in the whole of the
Corinthians 14:33-35 KJV
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them
to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:
for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
have all read this passage, and many of us have wrestled with how this scripture
can coexist with the scripture that says to let “everyone
of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an
interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:26).”
Or the scripture that says, “every
woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head
(1 Corinthians 11:5).” How can these scriptures not be in conflict
with the one forbidding women to speak? These
are but two, though there are many other scriptures that suggest women can and
do speak in the church. When
considering all the scripture, it becomes obvious that women would NOT be silent
in the church.
there are the practical questions that arise.
For instance, if the primary churches of that era were “house
churches,” then weren’t women already at home?
So how do we reconcile these scriptures and the practical issues to 1
what I see. It comes back to
themes. The theme that best
explains this is that the writers of the New Testament knew they didn’t
have all the answers. So at times
they implemented temporary structure to address a certain problem with the
intention that eventually that structure would be replaced by the “operation
of the Holy Spirit.”
is anything we impose to replace a function of the Holy Spirit.
Paul and the other apostles at times imposed structure in the absence of
structure supplied by the Holy Spirit. The
apostles found that, at times, spiritual structure was lacking because of the
lack of spiritual maturity of the church. We
find it with the church at Corinth. They
were not spiritually mature enough to operate under the unified orderly manner
of the Holy Spirit. So Paul imposed
temporary rules for them, and especially their women, to follow.
The apostles found that, at times, temporary structure was necessary to
bring discipline and order until the church matured spiritually to the point
where such structure was no longer necessary.
Structure is never meant or intended to be a permanent condition of
either the Church or us as individual Christians.
for example, the law:
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which
should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we
might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
law was not meant to be a permanent structure for God’s people but a temporary
rule to provide guidance until God’s people matured into justification by
faith. Essentially, God provided
the “law (as a structure)” until His law could be written in the hearts of
His people (the operation of the Holy Spirit).
It was not meant to be a permanent structure.
Or you could say, it was not meant to last forever.
The problem is that mankind likes structure.
It provides a certain security. Therefore,
even when the Spirit moved to bring about justification by faith, many of
God’s people clung to the old ways and refused to mature.
Even today, the orthodox Jews still cling to the law.
consider another example:
Corinthians 3:17 KJV
the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
be clear about this. The Holy
Spirit working in the Church does not produce structure.
Structure may be a by-product of the Spirit moving on the Church, but
structure is something created by men not the Holy Spirit.
It can be a by-product in the sense that structure is sometimes imposed
due to people operating in spiritual gifts in a spiritually immature manner.
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose
a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were
neglected in the daily ministration.
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is
not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full
of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the
though both the apostles and Jesus taught that it was an imperial mandate to
feed and care for the poor, that no person or group was above another, it was
not being practiced here. Certain
groups seemed to be receiving preferential treatment.
Consequently, the apostles implemented a structure to address what was
obviously an area of spiritual immaturity in the Church.
we consider the solution the apostles used to address this problem, you get an
idea of how they used structure. Consider
the qualities required of the men. They
were to be “full of the Holy Ghost and
wisdom.” It is clear
that structure should be intended to mimic as closely as possible the work and
leadership of the Holy Spirit that it temporarily replaces.
Consequently, church structure and the hierarchy that developed was never
meant to be a permanent condition in the Church, but rather to fill a need only
until the Church can reach that maturity level where it is no longer necessary.
Disagree? Then consider this
We All Come…
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some,
pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the
Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
the word “till.”
Ministry itself is a form of structure and is therefore intended to be
temporary. The scripture here
explains that it is a temporary imitation of the operation of the Holy Spirit.
According to this scripture, ministries are imposed upon the Church “till”
the body of Christ grows into spiritual maturity, at which time it becomes no
are two uncontroversial facts that define whether ministry is operating in
accordance with the design established by the apostles.
First, does it mimic the operation of the Holy Spirit?
Second, is it bringing the Church closer to spiritual maturity and thus
its own obsolescence? Even
the gifts of the Spirit are a temporary structure of the Church.
Both they and ministries must eventually go away if the “operation of
the Spirit” is to completely mature.
Corinthians 13:8-10 KJV
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether
there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be
I believe that the Church has reached such a level of spiritual maturity
(perfection) that it no longer needs the structure of spiritual gifts or
ministry? Absolutely not!
Nor I can imagine what it would be like to have every believer
functioning at a level of spiritual maturity that made them no longer necessary,
but it certainly must be our goal. The
point is this: we must not universally impose onto all Christians a structure
that was meant to address a certain issue in a single church or culture.
Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a
servant, though he be lord of all;
But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the
raise our children with Christian values, imposing a Christian structure in
their lives. This structure becomes
no longer necessary when they choose to serve the Lord on their own.
The structure is then discarded in favor of a real relationship with God.
This Christian structure we teach our children is nothing more than the
same temporary replacement of the Holy Spirit that is used in the church.
When people impose structure in the church, they are treating the
congregation as children. And
just as structure stands in the way of the maturation of children, so it also
does in a church.
“Good And Bad” Value Of Structure
structure can be a good thing. It
can bring order to chaos. This why
teachings such as Bill Gothard’s “Institute in Basic Life Principals” can
be so valuable to some Christians. It
is good when it is used with 1) the proper teaching about why it is imposed and
how the body of Christ must mature so that the need for that structure is no
longer necessary, and 2) a clear understanding with all those involved that such
guidelines are temporary, and finally, 3) the clear understanding of what it is:
structure, not a spiritual ordinance.
Also, when considering structure and its usefulness in the Church, it is
important to understand that there must be a plan for structure to go away.
Call it an “exit strategy.”
instance, if a structure is put in place to address a problem like the
Corinthians 14:23 KJV
therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with
tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they
not say that ye are mad?
might be imposed as follows:
Corinthians 14:27-28 KJV
If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by
three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him
speak to himself, and to God.
as people grow spiritually and come to understand that spiritual gifts are
subject to the individual and spiritual order is achieved (spiritual maturity),
this form of structure may be no longer necessary.
But structure can also have the opposite effect: it can become a barrier.
meant to aid the Church during its immaturity can become a barrier if not
discarded as the body grows in maturity. We
see this with the Old Testament. It
was given as a temporary structure to provide us with examples of spiritual
things, but it has now become a barrier to the Orthodox Jews.
They refuse to discard it, so now it serves to prevent them from coming
into the knowledge of the truth. The
same thing is true in children. The
control and structure we impose on the lives of our children must diminish as
they mature. Otherwise, there will
eventually be a clash of wills.
are some denominations that are composed of nothing more than flesh-imposed
structure. They mandate rules of
structure for many, if not all, parts of a person’s life.
With these denominations, there exists very little potential of spiritual
growth. In fact, with these
denominations, spiritual growth usually means people must abandon them.
then there is the opposite extreme, where a church allows chaos to reign.
There is no structure. Imagine
children being raised with no structure in their lives.
These children never really mature unless they learn to bring structure
into their lives all on their own. Structure
is necessary for any type of immaturity, physical or spiritual.
is no doubt that there is a danger in structure.
If used improperly, it will suppress and even choke out spiritual growth.
That is why having a single pastor over a church (in a hierarchical
fashion) can have devastating results.
Unless that man is extremely mature, he will use structure to control the
church rather than to build it up and turn it over to the Holy Spirit.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the
Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee
out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of
nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and
blind, and naked:
had a message for seven churches. Each
time I read these letters, I am amazed at how far off they each were from how
they saw themselves compared with how Jesus saw them.
Probably the most extreme example is that of the church at Laodicea.
This church thought they were “rich,
and increased with goods, and [had] need of nothing.”
But Jesus said they were “wretched,
and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
How could there exist such a disparity?
Come to think of it, I do not know of a single church that believes it is
wrong. Just like the seven churches
mentioned in Revelation, every church I know believes that they have the truth
and are approved of God. They all
seems to be saying, “I am rich”
spiritually. Had it not been for
this letter being sent to these churches, would they have ever known how Jesus
felt about them? Could they not
hear the voice of the Spirit as it spoke to them?
of our church programs, agendas, and even the most ambitious goals we set for
the church are but different forms of structure, and care must be taken so as
not to detract the church from hearing from the Spirit of God.
If we are not careful, we can inadvertently set a direction for the
church that is contrary to the Holy Spirit, in direct opposition to what He is
saying. One thing is certain, the
churches in Revelation thought they were obedient to the Spirit, but they were
not. Not only had they had missed
it, but many were in opposition to the direction of the Spirit.
How is it that Christians and churches can be virtually in opposition to
God and not know it? The answer is
simpler than it may seem: it is called structure.
did these churches get so far away from the will of God?
Could structure have played a part?
When a church uses any form of structure, they face the danger of
becoming “out of sync” like the seven churches Jesus addressed in the Book
of Revelation. Nothing.
Nothing! Nothing can replace
the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
If structure must be imposed to address an issue, then it must be
only temporary until the Body of Christ matures enough so that control can be
turned over to the Holy Spirit as quickly as possible.
Remember, structure is at best a crutch: it can never work as well as the
Holy Spirit, nor should it be implemented with that intention.
believe that today’s Church is just like the churches of two thousand years
ago. It isn’t listening!
As I said in the beginning, I am convinced that most Christians and
churches do NOT know how to hear the voice of the Spirit.
Instead, we have allowed presumption, our cultural values, and our
intellectual knowledge of scripture dictate our direction rather than actually
hearing what the Spirit is saying. If
the structures of spiritual gifts and ministry are to fulfill any function, it
should be to get us to hear the voice of the Spirit.
Instead, I fear that the only thing most ministers are doing is to
convolute things by creating so much noise it is impossible to hear the voice of
the Spirit today. Instead of
getting us to hear from God, they have succeeded in replacing the voice of the
Spirit in the Church.
where do we start, and how do we know if we are hearing the voice of the Holy
Spirit? To begin with, look for
barriers, structure, programs, and agendas.
Can we see a way to phase these out and allow the Spirit to have its
rightful place of control? Structure
must never become sacred. Barriers
will always block the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Make sure that you have given this structure up in your own lives first.
That is when you start hearing the voice of the Spirit.
that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
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