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The Holy Spirit

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James Dunne writes

Recently we have been experiencing a move of the Spirit in our Sunday morning service. This has shown itself in some of the members of our congregation being physically affected by the Holy Spirit. I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what the Bible tells us about such events.

In the Book of Exodus Ch 34 we are told that Moses was so transformed by his encounter with God on Mount Sinai that when he returned to the congregation of Israel, he had to wear a veil so as not to frighten the people.

In the Book of 1 Samuel Ch10 we are told Saul was so physically affected by the Holy Spirit after his being anointed King and encountering the Prophets that the people asked ‘Is Saul also among the Prophets?’.

In Acts we see the disciples being so affected by the Spirit that the apostle Peter has to say ‘these men are not drunk’.

So, the Holy Spirit affecting people physically is not a new thing but one that has a long tradition in Jewish and Christian history.

But what is the purpose of such physical manifestation? There is no single answer. In the case of Saul, it seems to be the Spirit witnessing to the people of Israel that he was God’s choice of King as well as part of a process of change that was going on inside him. In the case of the Old Testament Prophets it often goes along with a new revelation of the nature of God and/or his plans. For Peter and the disciples, it strengthened and enabled them to preach the Gospel as well as created the opportunity for the Gospel to be preached. And later on in Acts Peter takes the evidence of the Holy Spirit falling on the Gentiles, to whom he was preaching, as justification for associating with Gentiles and baptising them into the faith. Within the Church, the letters of Paul teach extensively the impact of the holy Spirit in our lives and part of that teaching is the manifestation of the Spirit through spiritual gifts, dreams and visions. Any move of the Spirit is to be embraced but managed in line with the teachings in the Bible.

Understanding the purpose of such movements is something we have to wrestle with both at an individual level and at a congregational level. We must give each other the space to discover the purposes and the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.