Terry Virgo is founder of Newfrontiers, a global Christian movement spanning over 60 countries and 800 churches. This book has given me much food for thought…
There seemed to be a number of different schools of thought regarding receiving the Spirit. Some simply taught that if you were a Christian you had already received the Holy Spirit, and that was that! They might add that during your Christian life you will hopefully gradually be increasingly filled with the Holy Spirit as you grow in grace and maturity.
This was the line that my own church took and I had yet to be exposed to the thunderings of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (in “Quenching the Holy Spirit”) when he challenged his hearers, “Got it all? Well, if you have got it all, I simply ask in the name of God why are you as you are? If you have got it all, why are you so unlike New Testament Christians? Got it all! Got it at your conversion! Well where is it, I ask?” [Virgo, p.32]
Regarding Acts 8:15-16, Martin Lloyd-Jones had this to say in “Joy Unspeakable”–
These people were already true believers on the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified as their Savior. They had been baptized into his name because they had become believers, but still they were not baptized with the Holy Spirit. [Virgo, p.34]
In “Joy Unspeakable,” Martin Lloyd Jones writes–
If your doctrine of the Holy Spirit does not include this idea of the Holy Spirit falling upon people, it is seriously, grievously defective. This, it seems to me, has been the trouble especially during the present century, indeed almost for a hundred years. The whole notion of the Holy Spirit falling upon people has been discountenanced and discouraged… surely one of the prime explanations of the present state of the Christian Church. [Virgo, p.36]
Immediately new believers were baptized, the apostles laid hands on them and expected them to receive the Spirit–which they did! The youngest believer, once he was saved, was fully qualified to receive the Holy Spirit. [Virgo, p.37]
…the record of Scripture shows that after the Day of Pentecost no one was ever told to “wait for the Holy Spirit.” The youngest of believers simply received the laying on of hands. After Paul had baptized the men in Ephesus, he laid hands on them and they were instantly filled with the Spirit. [Virgo, p.37-38]
God is seeking those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth,” not “in temperament and preference.” In God’s glorious kingdom extroverts will learn to be hushed in awe before Him and those formerly inhibited will be drunk with new wine. Peter did not argue on the Day of Pentecost, “These are not all drunk as you suppose but are a group of extroverts who prefer this kind of worship.” Certainly there will be great diversity in times of worship, but the variety should not be a reflection of our human failings and limitations but an outshining of the glorious multi-colored grace of God. [Virgo, p.71]
In “Westminster Record,” Martin Lloyd-Jones writes–
There were excesses in the church at Corinth, but what does Paul say to them? Does he say, “Never speak in tongues again, never prophesy again, never give vent to these feelings that you have within you.” He does not say anything of the sort. The whole atmosphere in the early church was charged with the Spirit and they expressed that in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
The really important question of us to face is, are we like the early church, are we like the early Christians, rejoicing and praising God, filled with gladness and joy so that we amaze the world and make them think at times that we are filled with new wine? Let us avoid all excesses, let everything be done decently and in order, but above all quench not the Spirit. Rather be filled with the Spirit and give evidence of the fact that you are. [Virgo, p.72]
Visions and prophecies often lead us in the conflict of prayer and give us a sense of direction. [Virgo, p.108]
Modern churches are built on all sorts of foundations. Some are built on tradition, some on institution, and some on democracy or sentimentality… The unwieldy “majority church vote” can successfully keep such a church rooted in a bygone century…
Churches are sometimes built on a predominantly pastoral gift. When this is the case, they run the risk of concentrating on the needs of the flock rather than on the purpose of God. The flock can come to see pastoral care as the key factor of church life. The church can be constantly evaluated on the basis of whether their personal needs are being met rather than whether God’s purpose is being fulfilled. For instance, pragmatic changes that should be made in the church program can be withstood because of undue consideration being given to any discomfort the congregation might face. Thus necessary small-group subdivisions or multiple services might be resisted by a church simply because people express their personal preferences instead of embracing God’s guidance for incorporating growth. [Virgo, p.115]
If a church is built essentially and exclusively on a teaching gift, it will tend to produce a preaching center that gathers a crowd but does not build a body. If the major leadership role is in the hands of an evangelist, the local church will reflect the immediacy of his burden for the lost, but again it will not build all that God wants for the local church.
The New Testament teaches that a church will succeed when the vital ministries of pastor, teacher and evangelist are built on an apostolic/prophetic foundation. Without exposure to a prophet, a whole congregation may be Spirit-filled and speaking int tongues, but not know why. Even good churches, if they are not caught up with God’s ultimate intention, will find themselves becoming parochial and stagnating instead of reaching the world. The prophet insists on reminding us of our true identity and our calling to make disciples of all the nations. He will not allow us to settle as an inward-looking group. [Virgo, p.115-116]
Appointments without gifting will soon turn the church into a cold institution. If a man is not called or gifted but holds office, he is simply an appointment, and we begin to drift away from biblical norms to religious externality.
Those appointed by God into positions of leadership in the church have a high calling. They not only teach the word and lead the people, they also set the tone of the church. They create its atmosphere and style and establish its philosophy of ministry. Their own sense of calling and destiny provides security, motivation and direction to the church…
We should not be surprised to note a great contrast between churches led by genuine, anointed leaders who are loved, valued, respected and given freedom to lead, and churches where democracy rules. Boards and committees, elections and voting are unknown in Scripture. There must come a rediscovery of biblical norms where the Holy Spirit calls and equips leadership and where that leadership is given room to operate. [Virgo, p.128]
Where tradition is the entrenched norm, and democratic power is held by a majority who treasure the past, we should not be surprised to note little freedom of movement or spiritual progress. When the Holy Spirit says, “Behold, I do a new things,” sadly the democratic vote will often reply, “Not here, you won’t.” [Virgo, p.129]
Spiritual authority must leave room to breathe and must never dominate people’s lives. Once leaders have offered their counsel, they must give people space–the chance to find out for themselves what God is saying. [Virgo, p.134]
Modern churches have often resorted to electing their leaders, but those elected into office can similarly be voted out of office, so the temptation to be a man-pleaser is considerable. Appointed by the congregation, such leaders are accountable to the congregation. When there is no anointing, democracy is probably the safest form of church government. But when God begins to give anointed leadership, democracy must make room for Him to have His way.
In the New Testament the whole matter was far more charismatic in the word’s truest sense. The Spirit-led appointment of elders was an important part of the apostles’ foundation-laying ministry. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we resort to man-made structures with varying degrees of success, even leading to manifest disaster. [Virgo, p.150]