The Ground of Our Experience

“A Spirit-filled church always studies the apostolic teaching. It is a learning church that grounds its experiences in and tests those experiences by the Word of God.” − James Montgomery Boice

At the end of the second chapter of Acts, after describing the coming of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Luke began to write about things that characterized the early church (Acts 2:42-47). The first characteristic he mentioned was their devotion to the apostles teaching. The apostles were specifically chosen by Jesus to teach the Word of God. Therefore, they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry it out. Though they may not have completely understood it at the time, the night before he was crucified Jesus explained this to His disciples. He promised that the Father would send them another Helper, the Holy Spirit who would teach them and bring to remembrance all the things He had said (John 14:26). The promise proved true as evidenced by Peter’s sermon, where he boldly preached Jesus, the Holy Spirit moved with great power, and three thousand people were saved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In his commentary on these latter verses of Acts 2, James Boice makes the point that after such a miraculous work, the easiest thing for the church to have done would’ve been to look back at the experience of Pentecost and try to replicate it. There’s no doubt that what happened was an awesome experience. But what is found in Luke’s description is that as the church moved forward they devoted themselves first to apostolic teaching, the study of God’s Word. The Spirit of God works mightily through the Word of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As believers, we do and should experience God, but we must be careful not to measure that experience based solely on how it makes us feel or appeals to our emotions. There’s great temptation and tendency to do just that. Boice’ larger point in the quote above is that our experiences alone are not the measure of what constitutes being Spirit-filled. Nor are they the measure of what constitutes true worship. Only when our experience lines up and flows from the Word of God can it be of the Spirit and thus considered true worship. Our experiences must always be kept in check by God’s Word.         

Boice goes on in his commentary, pointing out the great blessings that have come to the church from deep study of the Bible. In answering why such is the case, he says, “It is because the closer men and women come to God the closer they want to get to where He speaks to their hearts, and that is in the Bible”. The Spirit of God lives in the heart of every believer, but we are filled with the Holy Spirit only as our hearts are yielded to His work in us. If this is to happen, we must first expose ourselves to God’s Word, and then, as was the case with the early church, the rest will follow.

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