One of the biggest wins the devil gained against the Church was getting a majority of Christians to turn against the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians and demonstrated in the entire book of Acts.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are a vital part of the Christian life. Salvation from sin is not the end goal of salvation. The end goal of salvation is transformation into the image and likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). In order to live a victorious Christian life, it requires the power of the Holy Spirit. Each believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, but the book of Acts is clear about the importance of living a life full of the Holy Spirit. Even after Pentecost, the disciples were being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). How much more so do we as believers today need to be full of the Holy Spirit?
The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are demonstrations of the power of God for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God, setting people free, and glorifying Christ. If you remove them from Christianity, you have a Christianity that is built entirely upon intellectual understanding of core doctrine. That is important, but is it what Christianity is all about? No!
The book of Acts gives us the clearest description of what Christ wants His body to look like. The reason the book of Acts is there in the Bible is to show us what we as Christians are to be doing. We are to be going out into the world preaching Christ and demonstrating the power of God over the power of darkness just as the early church did.
So how did satan get so many people opposed to the gifts of the Spirit?
It began long ago with the formation of the Catholic Church. Organization is not a bad thing, but it is a man-made thing. Whenever man tries to replace the Holy Spirit with organization no good can come out of this. In fact, it eventually leads to oppression, over lording, and an exaltation of man; even man’s interpretation of the Scriptures. With Catholicism, came religion. The more religion you have, the less Holy Spirit you have. The sad reality is that most of Church history over the past two thousand years has created a type of Christianity that is opposed to the Holy Spirit, even within many Protestant circles.
Catholicism built a foundation that promotes reliance upon man for one’s connection to God, works to cover sins and justify a lack of the Holy Spirit, and a church service structure that seeks to keep the Holy Spirit from ever being able to change the status quo.
Without the Holy Spirit, all that is left is religion, and religion has no power to overcome satan. Without the Holy Spirit, there are no gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Catholicism created a historical norm that it is okay to have Christianity without the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the entire early church would argue otherwise. Take a minute and just think for a second, why is church structured the way that it is? Why is it often the exact same thing week after week? When did teaching from a pulpit become the highest form of Christian experience? None of these things are inherently wrong, but it is important to at least be willing to ask why things are the way they are? Does the Holy Spirit run most churches or does pattern and habit? Pattern is not bad and habit can be very good, but at what point are they used to shut out the Holy Spirit?
There have always been Christians that have sought a genuine Christianity, however, throughout the Middle Ages they were the minority. It was not until the Protestant Reformation that the earth began to see a major return to Biblical Christianity. However, that was only just the beginning of the shift back to Biblical Christianity. It was not the “end-all.” Much of the Protestant Reformation was still very much interconnected to the forms and structures of Catholicism even though in core doctrines it was drastically different.
So even Protestant Christianity is founded on a structure and form that was formed to exalt religious tradition over genuine Christian experience with God.
After the Protestant Reformation, there continued to be more minor reformations. There were the Anabaptists who believed in adult conversion instead of infant baptism. There were the Moravians who believed in spreading the Gospel to all the world and also believed in the current day operation of the power of the Holy Spirit. There was the Methodists that believed in living a Christian life that reflected the New Birth. And with them, the Great Awakening preachers that believed that there had to be a clear point of conversion in a person’s life. Then this led to Christians that promoted a subsequent work of Spirit infilling and sanctification after conversion (Charles Finney would fall into this category). This eventually led to the Pentecostal movement which sought to return to a Book of Acts type Christianity. Now here we are today.
The biggest hindrance to those that sincerely want God is a Spirit of Religion. It is one of the strongest demonic spirits that there is. Demonic Spirits that use religion to rule over people keep many people around the world in darkness and oppression through the many false religions that there are. The Christian is just as vulnerable to falling prey to a Spirit of Religion. It masquerades as sincere devotion, but in the end it always either glorifies man, a structure, a formula, a doctrine, an interpretation of the Scriptures, or pride above that of the risen Christ. It will use Christian tools and even parts of the truth to ensnare a believer into rejecting the Holy Spirit. Just think, the Pharisees were so blinded by a Spirit of Religion that with all of their intense study of Scripture they had no ability to perceive Jesus as the Christ. Instead, they were driven to hate him for challenging what they believed was the surest and most clear interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Likewise, it caused them to blaspheme the Holy Spirit by denying the work of God through Christ.
It is clear to anyone who is intellectually honest that the Pentecostal movement has been an important thing to occur in Christian history. Hundreds of millions of people have come to Christ in the last century due to the efforts of Pentecostal missionaries. However, even Pentecostalism is still vulnerable to expelling the Holy Spirit at the expense of religion.
The other way that satan has succeeded in getting Christians to be opposed to the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is through the abuses and misuses in churches that promoted supernatural experience and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There have been countess examples of compromise, glorification of money and wealth, and seeking the gifts for self-aggrandizement. Because the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit filled life are so vital to the life of the believer, satan knew that if he could create a false image of what the Spirit filled life was meant to look like, and what operating in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit entails, he could successfully keep many sincere sound thinking individuals far away from pursing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit filled life. He did that knowing that the Christian operating under the power of the Holy Spirit and the direction of the Holy Spirit is the one thing that no demon in hell can stop. He is deadest on keeping Christians away from walking empowered by the Holy Spirit. The devil is not stupid. If He can’t keep a person from accepting Christ, He will try to deflect them in whatever way possible. If he can’t get 1st or 2nd, he will settle for 3rd.
Satan can win against the intellect anytime. He can run circles around tradition. He can confuse doctrine. He can overcome organizations. He can do all these things, but he cannot overcome the Holy Spirit.This is why he has a vested interest in helping people fall headlong into supernatural excess. He knows that people will see that and immediately associate the genuine work of the Holy Spirit with that which is false and, in so doing, keep many people away from both.
The true genuine Spirit filled life lines up with proper Christian doctrine. It is possible to both operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to have solid doctrine. Paul did it. God is no respecter of persons. In Christ, we can as well. The disciples always made it clear that it was the Holy Spirit who empowered them. Jesus - the same yesterday, today, and forever. Well, the Holy Spirit - same yesterday, today, and forever. Paul even challenged the different churches, especially the Church of Corinth, to be operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to seek the gifts, and to have sound doctrine and sound behavior as well. If the Bible is meant to be interpreted today with current day application then the Book of Acts and Paul's writings on the supernatural gifts were not just meant for 2000 years ago but today. This is where people that are opposed to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and seeking the gifts display great intellectual dishonesty and bias. "Follow Scripture. It applies to today....well except the stuff about gifts and the supernatural."
The book of Acts provides the template for what God wants our lives to look like. Jesus said in John 4:24 “God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.” The body of Christ needs both. There is a reason why. We are spiritual beings and need to encounter God supernaturally. We are more than just natural. We need truth because satan is also a spirit and seeks to deceive and can easily do so. Spirit and Truth are like two wings to a plane. Which wing is more important? Neither. This is why we should look to the early church in the book of Acts as our example today.
God intends for believes to seek to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to go beyond our natural understanding. It is the only way that we can challenge the Kingdom of darkness in this world. Man-made formulas and structures do not cause hell to tremble, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit does. This is why satan has to try to keep people either afraid of, or offended in, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He can't overcome demonstrations of the power of God, healing, prophecy, demonic deliverance, etc.
Now think about this for a second. If God gives us the gift of salvation, and that didn’t end in the book of Acts, then doesn’t God still give us the other gifts that will help us live out the Christian life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are just what the name entails – gifts. They are free. They don’t have to be earned. But you do have to want them. Many non-believers miss out on the gift of salvation. Many Christians miss out on the Gifts of the Spirit.
So step out in faith and begin to “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 14:1). To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be full of the love of God and to be full of the love of God is to be full of the truth of God. Preach the Gospel, be full of the Holy Spirit, and demonstrate what that looks like to this lost, broken, captive world. Let us return to Biblical Christianity, sound doctrine, the Spirit filled life, and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.