Starting Gospel Movements on Campus: Authority of the Word and The Holy Spirit

by Paul on December 15, 2009

Every once in awhile I like to create scenarios that require me to think about implementing Gospel planting strategies and applying tactics in new environments.  This is this is the sixth of a 21 part series talking about ways to use Gospel planting strategies with online and offline tactics to catalyze Gospel Planting Movements on a University Campus.

Other posts in this series:

Also, these post come from things I’ve learned from David Watson.  I’m applying them to what God has called me to do.  I encourage you to read David’s blog.

I love the following story of Peter and John from Acts:

Acts 4:1-22 (NIV, Emphasis Mine)

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin

1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

5The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.7They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11He is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the capstone. 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

The Authority of the Disciples Questioned

The Sanhedrin questioned Peter and John’s authority to heal and to proclaim the message of Christ.  They didn’t directly challenge the message.  Instead, they challenged the messengers.  If they could undermine or dismiss the authority of the Peter and John, the Sanhedrin could dismiss the message.

Peter Was Filled With The Holy Spirit

As Peter replies to the Sanhedrin he is filled with the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of a promise Jesus made to the disciples in Matthew 10 (which may be one of the reasons I love it so much):

Matthew 10:17-20 (NIV, Emphasis mine)

17Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter, was a sign to everyone in the room of the power behind Peter’s actions.

Peter Pointed to Christ

Peter doesn’t shy away from declaring that he did all these things – proclaim the Gospel, heal the lame man – in the name of Christ.  Peter knew the source of his authority.

Peter Quoted Scripture

The Spirit, through Peter, reminded the Sanhedrin of what Scripture said about the Messiah.  Peter’s authority came from the filling of the Holy Spirit, the name of Jesus, and from Scripture.

Questions of Authority

When you start to plant the Gospel on your college campus, people will question your authority.  Their questions take many forms:

  • What makes you think you can minister among these people in this place?
  • What gives you the right to work here?
  • What seminary did you graduate from?
  • What Bible college did you attend?
  • What organization are you with?
  • What success have you had in other places?
  • What makes you think this will work here?

Sometimes these questions are legitimate.  That is, they come from people who genuinely want to know.  Often, though, they come from a desire to make you question your authority to do what God told you to do through His Word and through His Spirit moving you to obedience.

Don’t be surprised if most of the people who question your authority are Christians.  Most of the people who question my (Paul) authority to do what I do are Christians.  I didn’t expect Christians to question what God’s Word commands me to do and to question my authority to obey that Word in a way that might be different.  Rather than measure the fruit, they questioned my authority.  This still perplexes me, although I’m getting used to it.

What Authority Do You Need To Plant The Gospel?

Jesus says,

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV, Emphasis Mine)

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus had all the authority in heaven and earth to give the commands in the Great Commission.  When we obey these commands, we move forward with confidence in the authority of those who obey Christ’s commands in His name.

We read Christ’s commands in the Bible – not just the New Testament, but in the whole Bible.  Scripture holds these commands.  Scripture holds all the authority we need, as long as we obey it out of a desire to show our love for God.

The Holy Spirit is a sign of our working under the authority of Christ and in His name. The Holy Spirit speaks through God’s Word to our hearts to comfort, convict, remind us of all God says, speak to God on our behalf, and speak on God’s behalf when we are called into account for our obedience to the Gospel.

Here some verses addressing the role of the Holy Spirit:

Mark 13:11 (NIV) ”Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

Luke 12:11-12 (NIV)  “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

John 16:7-15 (NIV)  “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Acts 1:8 (NIV) ”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”"

Acts 2:38 (NIV) “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 9:31 (NIV) “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

Acts 13:4 (NIV) “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.”

Acts 20:28 (NIV) ”Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

1 Cor 6:19 (NIV) “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;”

1 Cor 12:3 (NIV) ”Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”

2 Cor 13:14 (NIV) ”May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Eph 1:13 (NIV) ”And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,”

Eph 4:30 (NIV) ”And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

2 Tim 1:14 (NIV) ”Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”

Titus 3:5 (NIV) “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,”

2 Pet 1:21 (NIV) “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Authority and Accountability On University Campuses

As long as you are in relationship with other obedient disciples of Christ – for accountability – then you don’t need any one person or organization as an authority over you.   Authority doesn’t come from an organization, it comes from relationship.  First, you have to have a relationship with Christ.  Second, you must have relationships with others who are obedient followers of Christ.  If you have a relationship with Christ and a relationship with other obedient followers of Christ, then you don’t need an organization backing you up to start a group, Discovery Bible Study, or a church.  All you need is the authority of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s Word.

Can You Increase Your Authority?

First of all, you have to remember that you act with the authority given by Christ.  Your authority comes from Him and is directly tied to your love for Him and the obedience that flows from your love for Him.  The Holy Spirit is a seal of Christ’s authority on you and on the work you do in Christ’s name.

I know a lot of people who pray for more of the Holy Spirit.  They need to realize that they are praying for the wrong thing.  Pray instead for the Father to increase your love for Christ so that out of your love you obey Him more.    In Acts 5:32 (NIV), Peter and the other apostles say, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Too many people pray for the Spirit and rarely realize that the Holy Spirit comes to those who love God and demonstrate their love through their obedience.  Take a look at John 14:

John 14:15-27 (NIV)

15“If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

22Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Don’t focus so much on getting more of the Holy Spirit.  Focus on loving Christ more and obeying His commands.  Authority follows love and obedience.

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Clinton December 16, 2009 at 5:21 am

Great post. What do you make of Scriptures like Psalm 42 and Luke 11:11-13 in terms of thirsting after God and the Father giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Also, the Scriptures do speak of the Holy Spirit as like water and like wind which both can come is greater amounts. Could we pray for the Spirit to come in greater intensity – to manifest Himself more?

Paul December 16, 2009 at 8:14 am

Wanting more and asking for more are different from having the capacity to receive more. Love-motivated obedience increases our capacity to actually receive what God is more than willing to give. Yes, we can want more of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we can ask for more of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God is willing to give more of Himself and the Spirit. But, the implication of John 14 and other New Testament passages is that obedience, motivated by love, is what makes us able to receive more of the Holy Spirit.

Clinton, you asked an excellent question. I really appreciate questions like this because they force me to think, talk with my mentors, and consider how to articulate things better.


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