Understanding How to Be Led By the Spirit of God! How the Holy Spirit Led the Early Church in Acts 5 – 7! Part 9
(ver 1.1) This is now Part 9 in a series of very important basic Christian Bible lessons on the subject of Being Led by the Spirit of God. These lessons contain spiritual information and not natural formulas so they are easily misunderstood by Christians. We have covered a tremendous amount of information that will not be repeated so if you have not read this from the beginning I would suggest that you go and start with “Part 1” first. I am currently going through the book of Acts searching for the works of the Spirit of God to lead His people. Just in the first 4 chapters of Acts, I showed you 7 of my 12 guidance methods either displayed in actions or referenced by words. We are seeing God working through His church to guide them and direct them and by learning how God has done this in the past, it will help point us to how God will direct us in these last days. Christians today are in the same church, the same body of Christ, in the same covenant, we read the same Bible, have the same Holy Spirit in us and are the same kind of believers in Jesus Christ as all of those mentioned in the early church that we are reading about in Acts. The mistake many modern Christians make is thinking that God now does something different today than what He did with the early church or perhaps that those in the early church were superior and God did something special and different for them. Somehow these types of Christians have missed the point that the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). Not believing this Bible truth causes many today to believe God changed how He operates and what He does with His people. That is clearly a misguided teaching that attempts to explain away what God did in Acts as not applying to the church today. I refute that kind of teaching categorically and declare with boldness that I’m in the same Church as Peter, James and John. What they did, I can do, what God did through them God can do through me. But, you can choose to believe whatever you like. Let’s move in the study to read in chapter 5.
ACTS CHAPTER 5
The fifth chapter of Acts is a difficult chapter to comprehend because of the many types of things that transpire. In this chapter a man and his wife sold a piece of property and they brought some of the money to the church to give to others and they claimed that they gave it all, when in reality they withheld a portion for themselves. Here is where it starts to get complicated. This does not mean that they were supposed to give it all; it only means they were not supposed to lie to say that they did when they didn’t give it all. Here is what Peter said to what was happening in verse 3:
Act 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Peter reveals things that are impossible for him to know personally. Peter would have had to follow them around and to be invisible to know what they had done in private. How did Peter know what was going on? I think that is an excellent question and people ignore it because they do not understand God and spiritual guidance. Peter knew that Ananias was lying because of the work of the Spirit of God within him and a spiritual gift of discernment called the “Word of Knowledge”. This is a spiritual gift from God that causes people to know things in their spirits that they did not witness personally in the physical realm. In other words this type of knowledge did not come from the sense realm. Here is where we need to ask how then did Peter know this private intimate information if he did not observe what they did with his senses? Let me give you another direct verse that speaks of this very special gift from God to help us understand what is being spoken of in this chapter:
1Co 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
Clearly not everyone possesses these gifts. It is God’s work that causes these gifts to come and never man’s desire just to have them. Man cannot cause them to happen nor can he ask for them to happen. I want you to notice what Peter was doing when this occurred. He was in the middle of a church service and he was not praying but he was speaking to the people that were gathered. Therefore, Peter was clearly not asking God for the gift when it was given. You see that would be like me coming to you and asking you to give me a thousand dollars when I just saw you get 1000 dollars from the bank. What right would I have to do that? Why would you even consider giving me anything just because I asked for it? You would be very foolish and become very poor rapidly if you gave to everyone that came along and wanted a free hand out. The word would get around quickly that he is giving away free money and then you could never stop the onslaught of people that would knock on your door. Think of children. Children ask for many things constantly that they want. As a parent are we supposed to give them everything they ask for? I hope you can see that would not work. They would want every toy and every sweet thing to eat and would sit around doing nothing but play games. We are no different than children in the world to God. God is not going to give you something just because you asked for it. I guess that is getting too deep for this lesson, because there are promises in God’s word that He has already given to us many things and we still do not possess them because we have failed to learn how to receive things from a spiritual God.
Just as parents should not be foolish to give their children everything they ask for, God is not foolish either. God is all knowing and all wise and He will decide when to give a spiritual gift. Here in 1 Corinthians 12:8 God gives some the “word of wisdom” and others the “word of knowledge”. Both are different gifts and manifestations of the Spirit of God to lead you and to guide you and to guide those that are being spoken about or to. A “word of wisdom” occurs when you spiritually know what to do in a certain situation in your life when you would not have known otherwise. A “word of wisdom” is a future knowledge of something to do, unlike the “word of knowledge” which is a past knowledge of something that was done. The “word of knowledge” occurs when you know of something that has occurred in the past to someone other than you and you would have not known of it without God showing you what had occurred to them. This is normally sin related, but not always. One pastor said this happened to him many times while he was in charge of the church that God had sent him to. God would bring a word of knowledge about someone doing wrong in the church like someone that was committing adultery or some other sin. This was done to help bring correction to the situation. But, the word of knowledge does not always have to be a sin. Now the word of wisdom is slightly different. Another pastor once said that he was in preparation at home doing something and God told him that this certain member of his flock was going to die today. So this pastor went immediately to where the individual was to help him and to bring comfort. Both examples were God’s Spirit giving gifts of guidance to help the church. These gifts were examples of God leading His people by His Spirit. I hope you understand them, because they happen every day to those that cooperate with them. Let’s briefly go back and read the context of 1 Corinthians 12 and verify that God is speaking about spiritual guidance.
1Co 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
God is writing concerning the spiritual. The word “gifts” was added by the translators and it is not necessarily accurate but it is not necessarily bad either. Anything you get from God is a gift of His grace. But always remember that God is a Spirit (Jo 4:24). Therefore, whatever God has given to anyone first came from the Spiritual realm. Here in this verse God is declaring ignorance to be an evil. If God does not want you to be ignorant then why are there so many ignorant people in the world? Primarily they do not make the effort to learn about spiritual things so they remain in their natural thinking ignorant processes. Let’s look at the next verse and eliminate some of our spiritual ignorance:
1Co 12:2 Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.
God is telling the church you use to be Gentiles that were previously led astray, but implies that the Holy Spirit is now leading them to know Grace. What we learn from this verse is that every human on the planet is being led by some spirit. Those that are in the world are being led by Satan and his demons, and those that are saved should be led by the Spirit of God. This verse is a very direct statement concerning being led, but we have to add our reasoning to determine who was doing the leading of the unsaved because it is not directly mentioned in this verse. If you read the next verse you will hopefully see that God is speaking and declaring that no one says Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit of God and the no one curses the Lord Jesus by the Holy Ghost either. Here are two contrasting works that proceed from humans. The Spirit of God says I do one but not the other. This is simply another implied reference to Satan vs. God’s work on the earth. Satan causes men to curse God and the Lord Jesus and God helps men to say Jesus is their Lord. I’m not going to go through every verse but here are the next 4 vreses in 1 Corinthians 12:
1Co 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1Co 12:5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
1Co 12:6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
1Co 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
What I wanted you to see in context is that God is speaking of leading the church and that He helps us to understand why He does this in these verses. There are three unique descriptions that are interesting to take note of. These are “diversities of gifts”, “differences of administrations” and “diversities of operations”. What are these speaking of? I personally believe they are simply informing us that God gives us different things at different times in different ways. In other words you can never put God in a box or try to say that He will always do things one way. The key words are diversities and differences. You are not God and you are not in charge of anything. Finally in verse 7, God tells us what it is that motivates Him to do things this way. God directly says it is for the profit or benefit of the entire church. That means God intends His leading to be a positive outcome for the church. Keep this in mind as we continue to study in the fifth chapter of Acts about Ananias.
Act 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Continuing in the fifth chapter of Acts Ananias falls down dead and is carried out by the church. I guess the lesson and the word of knowledge on this day was not for the benefit of Ananias the dead man, but rather for those that were watching and listening to what was said and done and they all learned that lying to the Spirit of God was not a very smart thing to do. They also learned that God knew when they were lying so it was impossible to get away it. They also saw the demonstration of the Word of Knowledge. This one act put the fear of God in the whole church and they got the message very quickly. What I want you to notice was that this was God leading the church through a spiritual gift called the word of knowledge for what we read was the greater good of the church. Even though we are never told this directly in the chapter, but that was what was happening. The Spirit of God spoke to Peter and Peter spoke what God had shown him to the church. I also want you to notice that Peter described Ananias as having Satan filling his heart and not God. That is an example of another manifestation gift of the Spirit of God called the “discerning of spirits”. It is also clear evidence that Satan was leading Ananias what to do and this was the wrong spirit to listen to. There are so many lessons to learn in this chapter that I really cannot spend the time to speak to them all. I do want you to understand that Ananias’ listening to Satan is why God did not correct Ananias, but allowed Satan to kill him and he fell dead immediately. You’ll probably ask me why I said Satan killed him and this is because Paul writes about another incident in the N.T. that is related.
1Co 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
I do not have time to talk about this verse in full or the context of this verse. But, I wanted you to see that a Christian was going to be turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit would be saved. Wow, that is pretty revealing. First you can see that Satan can cause physical death but not spiritual death. Spiritual death is separation from God. The sin of the Christian allowed Satan’s access to his physical body. I have concluded that this is potentially what happened to Ananias and his wife also. But, I’m not going to be able to go any further with this line of teaching today. Let’s continue going through Acts 5:
Act 5:11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Do you see the effect that this event had on the church? What would happen today if things like this happened again when the church met? I believe the effect would be the exact same. It would promote an attitude of holiness where the church would see that doing right was a good thing and sin was a very bad thing. I’m not predicting that this will happen again, but I would not be surprised if it did.
Act 5:12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
As you read in Acts chapter 5, the apostles continue to do many signs and wonders and preach the name of Jesus until they are thrown in prison in verse 18. If you read Acts 5:12 in isolation, it will give you the impression that the disciples were in control of what was happening, but this is clearly a misunderstood application of God’s works being made manifest through natural men using spiritual guidance, direction and His anointing. If the disciples do any great works they were done by the Gifts and the Grace of God’s power being made available to them and displayed through them. It is only by God’s direct power and man’s faith in His power that anything positive occurred in the book of Acts. I also want to point out that the church in this verse is again stated to be in one accord. This means there was a spirit of church unity and harmony which abounded in everyone and I am convinced that this is how the church will leave this planet very soon. Let me briefly describe the anointing of God and its role in what is happening in chapter 5.
2Co 1:21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;
1Jn 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
Here are just two verses that speak of God giving the church an anointing. Why the anointing was necessary and what the anointing is are two very valid questions? If you do not understand the concepts behind the anointing of God then you will not understand the book of Acts. In Acts 10:38 it tells us “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power who went about doing good and healing all those oppressed of the devil”. The anointing of God was the power of God according to this verse and it makes available this miracle working substance to others that Jesus encountered. If God had to anoint Jesus (God in the flesh) to heal people in the Gospels, then God must use the same anointing power in the lives of the disciples to heal also. These are repeated patterns given from God to Jesus that was handed down to the members of the church. We in the church are called the “Body of Christ”. That title alone promotes the fact that the anointing is present upon us. The Greek word translated as Christ means “anointed one”. It corresponds to the Hebrew word for “Messiah”. God is clearly saying that it is My Anointing on you that caused anything good to occur. Let’s continue through chapter 5. Verse 18 tells us that the disciples are thrown in prison, but then in verse 19:
Act 5:19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
Act 5:20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
We can again see the involvement of angels at work for the church. We are once more not told every detail. We do not know if the disciples prayed or if the church prayed, but nonetheless the angels show up and release all of them from prison. The angels come and shake the prison and release them to go back into the temple to continue to preach the name of Jesus. You can clearly see that the angels give them a message from God and tell them what to do. This is again very strong evidence that God is directing them and that they are being led by the Spirit of God. You have to understand that the disciples were new born spiritual babies in Christ less than a few weeks old at this time. They have much to learn about spiritual things and how God will lead them. Many times Christians want to be led like someone who has been a Christian for 50 years and they do not realize that these people grew to that level of spiritual maturity and awareness and that this was not how they were led by God from the start of their Christian conversion. Spiritual growth is a very basic principle to learning how to be led by the Spirit of God. Just as a new born natural baby is not independent from their parents for many years, so a new born spiritual baby is not able to do what a Christian of mature age and experience can do. That is just the way it works and you cannot sidestep the issue and jump beyond where you are right now just because you want to. You are going to have to grow and continue to learn. Let’s review briefly what we have observed and learned from chapter 5:
- God used Peter again to be a human messenger for other people to hear.
- The Holy Spirit gave Peter a word of knowledge concerning someone who was being influenced by Satan to sin.
- God also gave Peter the gift of discerning spirits to identify Satan’s involvement.
- All of this was done for the benefit of the church to teach them and guide them into holiness.
- Angels again are sent by God for deliverance of the church and for a message from God.
- Based upon other stories found in the Bible it is implied someone was praying but it is not mentioned directly in this chapter.
- Therefore, there are at the least three different direct methods of leading being taught in this chapter and a forth that was implied.
- We can observe the Holy Spirits involvement in this chapter, even though He is never directly mentioned.
ACTS CHAPTER 6 & 7
Act 6:1 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.
Act 6:2 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.
Here in this chapter, we are going to see another manifestation of the inward work of the Spirit of God. I want you to notice that the number of the church has multiplied considerably and this is the first time that I know of in the book of Acts where the church is said NOT to be in complete harmony and unity. Uh oh? That is certainly not good. I think this is an example of what happens in any church as they grow. But what I want to do is to teach what God’s response to this disharmony was? If you continue reading in the chapter you will see that the disciples are led by the Spirit of God to elect a church organization with structure assigning certain men jobs within the ministry of helps. These men are selected, prayed over and hands were laid on them to also anoint them for their new roles of responsibility. I want to teach you what is happening by showing you a verse in the New Testament that proves this was God working through the disciples and not the disciples acting independently from God.
1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Can we read? Can we see what it says? Who set up the ministry of helps and governments in the church? The Bible said that God did this yet we see the disciples only mentioned in Acts 6 like they were acting independent from God. Do you understand the dangers now of reading the Bible without using the Bible to interpret itself? Clearly this is one of the most prevalent errors in the teachings that many people listen to today. When the disciples set up an organized church structured government we were directly informed that God did this in Corinthians. We must therefore conclude that they were being led by the Spirit of God to do what they are doing in this chapter even though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned directly. Now notice the recorded reaction of the church to what is happening:
Act 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
Whenever you can get the whole church in attendance pleased over anything this has to be the Spirit of God’s direct involvement that is helping to influence the church. Can you see the problem of disunity within in the church and the solution that God has implemented to fix it? What does the Greek word translated as “pleased” mean? This Greek word means “to be agreeable”. It also means to be emotionally excited. Wow, here we go with more difficult spiritual concepts to relate with natural words and phrasings. Believe it or not this had to be an example of God leading the early church and helping to guide them. There is no mention of any angels, any voices, any external signs or any physical manifestations of God. No, you see the Spirit of God was present, but He was present in every believer having filled each of them with the Spirit of God a short time earlier. I want to show you something that Jesus said that is applicable to what is occurring in this chapter.
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
If the church was gathered in the name of Jesus, then Jesus declares “I will be there with you”. Here we have another contradiction of information given verses information not directly mentioned in the book of Acts. You can clearly read in Acts 6 that there is no direct mention of Jesus being present, yet clearly Jesus was a liar in Matthew if He is not present Acts 6. Uh oh? It is very obvious to me that they were conducting church business and since Jesus is the Head of the Church therefore, Jesus has to be present in a spiritual form to oversee this operation, administration and to give them guidance, direction and instruction. Something is occurring internally within every believer that caused them to become excited and very agreeable together and I believe that both of these are signs of being led by the Spirit of that you can rely on today also. If what the Spirit of God does is not exciting to you then you are probably not saved. If you do not agree with what the Spirit of God is speaking to the church, then again you are probably not saved. Two signs of being led by God are that you will agree and that you will be excited about what He says. I am going to skip down to Stephen in verse 8 to continue:
Act 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
We can again see a bad translation or at least an easily misunderstood translation of the Bible demonstrated in this verse. It was not Stephen that was doing anything, but yet it was. Because Stephen was full of faith, God’s power was able to flow through Stephen to cause many miracles to occur. There is a clear connection that it was the partnership of a man’s faith and God’s power working together that causes the positive things to occur. We can clearly understand this was the anointed power of God that permitted the miracles and wonders to be performed. Stephen had no power in of himself to help anyone. It was only because Stephen was being led by the Spirit of God that Stephen could be at the right place at the right time to do anything. I do not know how to say that any more clearly and I hope you understand that God can and will use you the exact same way as He did Stephen if you cooperate, believe and expect Him to do it. In chapter 7 of Acts Stephen preaches with boldness the truth of the Word of God and as a result he is stoned and killed. It is very interesting to note that the Bible says that Jesus is seated at the right hand of majesty and in this chapter; Stephen sees a vision of Jesus standing up and watching the murder of a Spirit Filled church member by the ignorant overzealous misguided Jews. If it was God in heaven watching this event on the earth, who was on the earth causing the death of Stephen? It was definitely not God. Who was leading the Jews spiritually to kill this man of God? Based upon scripture it is Satan (Jo 10:10). It is very clear to me that Jesus took this action of the Jews very personally. I’ll think I’ll end here today since I have already gone too long. Let’s review what has happened in chapter 6 and 7:
- The church was meeting and Jesus said whenever you meet in my name, there I am also.
- God sees disharmony in the church and moves to solve the problem through spiritual guidance.
- God leads the church to organize and to create delegated levels of administrations and responsibilities.
- All of the church is well pleased and church unity is restored.
- God was working through many different people and in chapter 5 we read about God using Stephen a man not of the original twelve. Proving God can lead us and use us all mightily.
- In this information God has grown the church to some very large and significant numbers proving God’s involvement in what we are reading about.
- When disharmony breaks out God is involved in bringing correction proving God has our best interest at heart.
There are probably many other things to learn in these chapters but I believe we have covered many of the important ones that I wanted to emphasize on how and why God was leading His people. I also introduced you to the concept of God’s guidance being a gift from God given to us by His Grace. That is actually a very import concept to consider. Anything we get from God is not something we earned or even deserved. If God gave us direction, then it was His love that motivated Him to give it to us. I hope you are enjoying these lessons and I’m sorry I did not cover as many chapters as I would have liked to have covered today. We certainly learned several new concepts about spiritual guidance and I believe that was worth your time in reading and studying with me. If you would like to share a comment on this subject, I would really love to hear it. So feel free to be a blessing and share what is on your heart. God Bless!
If you would like to continue reading in the series to learn how to be led by the Holy Spirit you may continue with “Part 10“.
Posted on October 16, 2011, in Bible Basics, Bible Study, Understanding and tagged Being Led, Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Holy Spirit, Religion, Revelation, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.