Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Distinuishing Characteristics of Being "Full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom"

This study is from Acts 6: 1-6 and the subsequent story of Steven. The text is as follows:

Acts 6
1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

The key to understanding how to distinguish a person as being 'full of the Spirit and wisdom" is to know whose Spirit it is we are looking for. It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Therefore, to see His life in someone and be able to know it when we see it, we must understand the character of Christ.

It is important to know and be able to put into words these characteristics if we are to be able to have precision in our discernment. If there is anything the church lacks today it is precision in it's discernment.

I just read an Edwards Sermon called, "Christ the Example of Ministers". What catches me most is how Edwards understands so deeply the character of Christ.
Look at this list of the excellencies of Christ:
The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world: they should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God: they should follow the example of his prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of his retiring from the world, away from the noise and applauses of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father; and once of his rising up in the morning a great while before day, and going and departing into a solitary place to pray, Mark i. 35. and another time, of his going out into a mountain to pray, and continuing all night in prayer to God, Luke vi. 12. Ministers should follow Christ's example, in his strict, constant, and inflexible observance of the commands which God had given him, touching what he should do and what he should say; he spake nothing of himself, but those things which the Father had commanded him, those he spake, and always did those things that pleased him, and continued in thorough obedience in the greatest trials, and through the greatest opposition that ever there was any instance of. Ministers should be persons of the same quiet, lamb-like spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God's will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men; of the same calmness and composure of spirit under reproaches and sufferings from the malignity of evil men; of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries; of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence; the same disposition to pity the miserable, to weep with those that weep, to help men under their calamities of both soul and body, to hear and grant the requests of the needy, and relieve the afflicted; the same spirit of condescension to the poor and mean, tenderness and gentleness towards the weak, and great and effectual love to enemies. They should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement of his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things' sake Christ went through the greatest labours, and endured the most extreme sufferings.

In answering our question, What are the distinguishing marks of a person "full of the Spirit and Wisdom" (Acts 6:3), remember that the apostles knew Jesus. They could spot His spirit in His true followers. Steven was seen as one that looked like Christ. Edwards gives us a good picture and a good list of these characteristics.
The lists of qualifications for deacons and elders in 1 Tim 3 is another good place to look to see the characteristics of one full of the spirit and wisdom.

How foolish the church is today. I hear stories from my unbelieving friends all the time of men of poor character being representatives of our faith. We here the stories in the paper and certainly we are disgusted by what we see on TV which poses as Christianity.
What are young thinkers to call for in the church to restore her beauty. It all starts with leadership and leadership in the early church was distinguished by men whom the world was not worthy.

Steven shows the chief character trait of Christ. He was self-sacrificing and courageous. He was pure and holy. He loved not the world. He made the church proud to call him our brother and our leader. Oh, that that day would come again when all the leaders of Christ's church would men 'full of the Spirit and wisdom"'

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