Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, had spent forty days with His disciples the saints talking to them about the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3)…afterwards and prior parting ascending to Heaven, He told them “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49).
So what was this power which they needed to await? He told them “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Yes, they couldn’t start their service preaching spiritual work unless they were endued with that power from on high; the Holy Spirit being upon them…
They were taught at the hands of Jesus Christ Himself for more than three years; listening to the teachings of this Great Master ” in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3) with all the depth, strength and influence of His teachings… with all what they practically witnessed of His various means in treating everyone, the way He served, the wonders and miracles…yes, God didn’t find all that as to be sufficient for them, even the forty days period which He spent with them after the resurrection God saw that they weren’t sufficient. They ought to have power from the Holy Spirit in their service. So God gave us an example on how to prepare Church servants…
It happens that we, mistakenly, introduce servants to work in God’s vineyard before they are well matured and before acquiring power from the Holy Spirit…!
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It’s not how many Church servants are in number; what counts is how strong their spiritualities are. It’s not how quickly we prepare them; but how well they are internally filled up. Only one sermon by Peter the Apostle, after the Holy Spirit came upon them on Pentecost, was quite sufficient for attracting three thousand persons who were cut to the heart and then were baptized (Acts 2:37-41).
And so was the work of the Holy Spirit with all the other disciples whom “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). That is why we read about their service that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47), and that is why we also read that ” the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith ” (Acts 6:7). They are clear examples of the fruitful service in which God’s spirit continually works, its God’s Spirit who gives words to preachers.
The Holy Spirit came upon the reverend apostles and that was a necessary condition for them to serve, as well as on ordaining deacons it was a prerequisite. In the story of appointing the first seven deacons chosen to serve, we hear the apostles saying to the people “brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:3). “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” as well as the rest of the seven men, it was said about Stephen the deacon that he was full of faith and power… (Acts 6:5-8).
For that reason when St. Stephen commenced his service he was able to dispute with three Synagogues of the Freedmen “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). It was also said that “all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).
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How broad and deep is the work of the Holy Spirit in the preliminary Church. The Holy Spirit was choosing servants and commanding that they should be ordained. The Holy Spirit is the One who said to the forefathers: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them ” (Acts 13:2). The Book also says “Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia ” (Acts 13:3-4).
The Holy Spirit then called the two apostles Paul and Barnabas and sent them away…the Holy Spirit even indicated places where service was to take place…as it was said once that they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia and in Bithynia…then guided them to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10).
The Holy Spirit also led the Holy Councils. The first of which was convened by the reverend apostles in Jerusalem on year 45 A.D. which was concluded by their saying “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden…” (Acts 15:28).
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If the work of the Holy Spirit was essential for the reverend apostles so how would it be for the ordinary Church servants whom if fallen into sin would be an offense to the service and the congregation. If some people served and failed in their service, or may be their service was incomplete and not up to the required level of perfection; the main reason could be that they worked without the Holy Spirit and this shows us the importance of the Holy Spirit’s leadership in the service.
The first work of the Holy Spirit is granting numerous and various talents which St. Paul the apostle mentioned in his first epistle to Corinthians chapter 12. Regarding the strength of the service, the Holy Spirit not only gives utterance to the servant as when Paul the apostle asked to pray for him saying ” that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel ” (Eph 6:19)…but also the Spirit gives such influence and effectiveness to the word uttered on souls listening to it, the Holy Spirit grants the ability to implement what is heard, as well as working through the person’s will hence this word would bear its fruit.
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As the Church cares for the work of the Holy Spirit in every person, she set up among the daily prayers the third hour prayer which refers to the Holy Spirit and His work. I know that the majority prays the Prime and the twelfth hour prayer, but do you care, as well, praying the third hour prayer in which you say to the Holy Spirit “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life-Giver, graciously come, and dwell in us and purify us from all defilement, O Good One, and save our souls.”
You have an evident relation with the Father in most of your prayers and in the prayer of thanksgiving, you also have a relation with the Son our Savior especially in the prayer of the sixth hour in which you say “O You, Who on the sixth day and in the sixth hour was nailed to the cross,… “, but what is your relationship with the Holy Spirit whom without Him you cannot live in the life of righteousness…?
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In the prayer of the third hour we ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the work of this grace in us particularly for the sake of purifying us. And in the absolution of the third hour we say “we thank You for You raised us for prayer in this holy hour, in which You abundantly poured the grace of Your Holy Spirit upon Your holy disciples and honorable and blessed apostles…”
We also repeat the phrase “the grace of Your Holy Spirit” and say “send forth upon us the grace of Your Holy Spirit, and purify us from all defilement of body and spirit. Change us into a spiritual manner of life, that we may walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
Realize here that according to the Holy Spirit; we are speaking about the grace being sent forth upon us and not the hypostasis as some may falsely think…Sending forth the grace is for the apostles and for us too…
Notice the work of the Holy Spirit as well in purifying body and spirit.
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It is good for a person to seek purification of his soul through the work of the Holy Spirit in him and not just by means of his own humanly effort throughout which he might fall and rise…
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There are other kinds regarding the work of the Holy Spirit; we say about Him in the third hour prayer: “a spirit of prophecy and chastity, a spirit of holiness, justice and authority”. The book of Isaiah the Prophet says about the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit of the Lord, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Is. 11:2). We ask in our prayers for the work of all this.
Regarding authority, it is mainly appointed to Priesthood. Including the power of forgiving sins, as the Lord said to His disciples “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:22-23).
When the Priest forgives sins of those who repent, he forgives through the power of the Holy Spirit working in him. As God says about the congregation at the end of the Divine Liturgy prayer “be absolved by my mouth through You Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit of authority regarding the average believers is: Either having control on their own selves through self discipline or on the other hand having power on devils not allowing them to be in control of their life or of their own will…
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The Holy Spirit as well is the Spirit of truth (Jn 15:26), the Spirit of justice. He, whom the Spirit of God works in him is fair and honest, rightly divides the word of truth, has no partiality in his judgments and avoids the idle babblings in his talks. The work of the Holy Spirit is infinite; He is the treasury of good things, the Lifegiver. He is the giver of the spiritual gifts as mentioned in (1 Cor. 12), He gives words of wisdom, of knowledge, gives words of faith, of prophecy, healing and mighty acts… We must not also forget the work of the Holy Spirit in all the Church Sacraments.
We are born through baptism from water and spirit, and then we are given the sacrament of Holy Chrism (anointment with the Myron oil) hence we abide in the Spirit and become temples for the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16)…in addition to the work of the Holy Spirit through the rest of Church sacraments.