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Holy Spirit's Supernatural Activity In Church History

Have you ever heard statements similar to the following:-

"Healing is not for today!"

"The gifts of the Spirit were given to start the church, but now we don't need them anymore ....."

"The gifts of the Spirit were only for the apostolic era!"

If this is the case then we should expect that the godly men and women throughout church history would not have experienced any supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit. Let's take a look to see if this were the case. 

God is a God who does not change (Heb 13:8). If He worked supernaturally in the Old and New Testaments then we should expect to see Him doing likewise afterwards.

Throughout scripture He has worked repeatedly in the miraculous. Jesus moved in the miraculous - revealing what the Father is really like in meeting the needs of mankind. He never talked flippantly or operated on His own accord. John shows us that whatever He said or did had been received from His Father in heaven - (Jn 5:19; 29; 36-38; 12:49; 14:10) Jesus said, "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these." (John 5:20) He also believed and expected that there would be others who would do greater things than what He had been doing. "I tell you the truth not a lie [emphasis mine] anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

Throughout church history there have been many of my brothers who have tried to explain away these words, instead why don't we invite the best teacher we can ever have - the Holy Spirit to lead and open our hearts to the truth of these words of our Lord.

If we struggle to believe or understand our Lord's teaching - does it mean that they are wrong? Certainly not! Instead we need the Holy Spirit to reveal these truths to our heart. After all you may be a candidate by which the Holy Spirit may move through in a migfhty way to bring glory and honour to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

5th Century to c. 1500

During this period of church history the activity of the Holy Spirit is very limited. Spiritual gifts and manifestations were almost non existent - although even during this period there are instances when He was obviously at work, in one way or another.

Sun. 22--The church was quite filled, and hundreds were without. And now the arrows of God flew abroad. The inexpressible groans, the lamenting, praying, roaring, were so loud, almost without intermission, that we who stood without could scarce help thinking all in the church were cut to the heart. But, upon inquiry, we found about two hundred persons, chiefly, men, cried aloud for mercy; but many more were affected, perhaps as deeply, though in a calmer way. (Wesley's Journal June 1759)

Mon. 6--. . . I talked largely with Ann Thorn and two others, who had been several times in trances. What they all agreed in was: (1) that when they went away, as they termed it, it was always at the time they were fullest of the love of God; (2) that it came upon them in a moment, without any previous notice, and took away all their sense and strength; (3) that there were some exceptions, but in general, from that moment they were in another world, knowing nothing of what was done or said by all that were round about them. . .

I have generally observed more or less of these outward symptoms to attend the beginning of a general work of God. So it was in New England, Scotland, Holland, Ireland, and many parts of England; but, after a time, they gradually decrease, and the work goes on more quietly and silently. . . .(Wesley's Journal Aug 1759)

Tues. 28--I rode on to Mr. Berridge's at Everton, and in the evening went to the church; but unusually heavy, and hardly expecting to do any good there. I preached on those words in the Second Lesson, 'We know that we are of God.' One sunk down, and another, and another. Some cried aloud in agony of prayer. I would willingly have spent some time in prayer with them; but my voice failed, so that I was obliged to conclude the service, leaving many in the church crying and praying, but unable either to walk or stand. One young man and one young woman were brought with difficulty to Mr. B[erridge]'s house, and continued there in violent agonies, both of body and soul. When I came into the room the woman lay quiet, wrestling with God in silent prayer. But even the bodily convulsions of the young man were amazing: the heavings of his breast were beyond description--I suppose equal to the throes of a woman in travail. We called upon God to relieve his soul and body, and both were perfectly healed. He rejoiced in God with joy unspeakable, and felt no pain, or weakness, or weariness. Presently after the woman also was delivered, and rose rejoicing in God her Saviour.(Wesley's Journal Aug 1759)

In the evening the Mayor [of Grimsby] and all the gentry of the town were present; and so was our Lord, in an uncommon manner. Some dropped down as dead, but after a while rejoiced with joy unspeakable. One was carried away in violent fits. I went to her after the service: she was strongly convulsed from head to foot, and shrieked out in a dreadful manner. The unclean spirit did tear her indeed; but his reign was not long. In the morning both her soul and body were healed, and she acknowledged both the justice and mercy of God (Wesley's Journal April 4, 1764).

After preaching to an earnest congregation at Coleford, I met the Society. They contained themselves pretty well during the exhortation, but when I began to pray the flame broke out: many cried aloud; many sunk to the ground; many trembled exceedingly; but all seemed to be quite athirst for God, and penetrated by the presence of his power (Wesley's Journal September 8, 1784).

"...This single conspicuous gift, which Christ committed to his apostles, Mark 6:13, remained in the church long after the other miraculous gifts were withdrawn. Indeed, it seems to have been designed to remain always; and St. James directs the elders, who were the most, if not the only, gifted men, to administer at. This was the whole process of physic in the Christian church, till it was lost through unbelief...." (John Wesley's Notes on the NT - James 5:14)

John Wesley was a man mighty in faith and prayer. Time and again people possessed with devils were brought to him and in answer to prayer the demons were cast out. Not only were evil spirits cast out, but the sick were healed as well. As Wesley preached, the power of God often came upon his listeners, and hundreds would fall under the power of the Spirit. Then, in answer, to prayer their souls and bodies were healed. A physician became offended at the cries of many who fell under the power of God. He attended Wesley's meeting and a lady he knew fell under the power. "Great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment he acknowledged the finger of God." On another occasion when Wesley was traveling the preaching circuit, his horse suddenly became lame. With no one near to offer help, he stopped and prayed. "Immediately the horse's lameness was gone." (John Wesley 'Prayer makes history' by David Smithers - http://www.watchword.org/smithers/ww31a.html)

"I took my leave of Newcastle,...my horse was so exceedingly lame that I was afraid I must have lain by too. We could not discern what it was that was amiss; and yet he would scarce set his foot to the ground. By riding thus seven miles, I was thoroughly tired, and my head ached more than it had done for some months...I then thought, "Cannot God heal either man or beast, by any means, or without any?" Immediately my weariness and headache ceased, and my horse's lameness in the same instant. Nor did he halt any more either that day or the next. A very odd accident this also!" (John Wesley's Journal - 17 March 1746)

"..I was about seven and-twenty. I then began spitting of blood, which continued several years. A warm climate cured this. I was afterwards brought to the brink of death by a fever; but it left me healthier than before. Eleven years after, I was in the third stage of a consumption; in three months it pleased God to remove this also. ..."((John Wesley's Journal - 28 June 1770)

The above is a brief sample of the supernatiural working of God the Holy Spirit through men and women yielded to Him, within church history This list illustrates that the gifts of the Spirit were not just meant for the 'apostles' or for the founding of the early church.

If the fruit of the Spirit is relevant for all time why not the gifts?

I pray that each one of us will  be encouraged to seek after more of the Holy Spirit's working in and through our lives so that our God may be glorified through lives becoming increasingly yielded to Him - through whom He can bring out His plans and purposes in the society in which we live. 

(Author: Joel MacInnes)

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Articles in this group

Polycarp (69-155 AD)
An account of the supernatural associated with Polycarp (Author: )

Justin Martyr (110-165 AD)
The workings of the Holy Spirit associated with Justin Martyr (Author: )

Irenaus (140 - 202 AD)
Examples of the moving of the Holy Spirit (Author: )

Tertullian (160-225 AD)
Accounts of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Author: )

Origen (185-254 AD)
Holy Spirit still recognised by the early church fathers (Author: )

Novatian (©. 250 AD)
Holy Spirit still distributing gifts (Author: )

Eusebius (263-338 AD)
The gifts of prophecy and tounges still being given to the church (Author: )

St.Augustine (354-430 AD)
Holy Spirit still performing miracles (Author: )

Mopsueste (©. 429 AD)
Healings still taking place (Author: )

Dominic (1170-1221 AD)
Amazing evidences of the supernatural (Author: )

Francis of Assisi (1182-1226 AD)
Speaking in tongues (Author: )

Martin Luther (1483-1546 AD)
The Holy Spirit still at work (Author: )

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