The Manifest Presence | Mike Bickle
Understanding The Phenomena That Accompany The Spirit’s Ministry
by Mike Bickle & Michael Sullivant
. Biblical Precedents for the Manifestations
. Historical Precedents for the Manifestations
. Catalogue of Manifestations
. Purposes for the Manifestations
. Exposing False Equations About the Manifestations
. Exposing Dangers Regarding the Manifestations
. Proper Responses to the Manifestations
When God chooses to show His power in and through the Body of Christ, opportunities are provided for both tremendous spiritual growth and tragic confusion and stumbling. Throughout both biblical and church history strange and even bizarre physical phenomena have accompanied outpourings of the Holy Spirit’s power. As we write here in the spring of 1994, numerous reports have been reaching our ears over the past few months of widespread occurrences of the manifestations of the Spirit across the U.S. and Canada. Many believers are being blessed, refreshed and rejuvenated. Other believers are not so blessed! They are skeptical and questioning whether these kinds of things can actually represent a genuine work of God. And what about the obviously fleshly behavior in which some engage and try to blame on the Spirit? What shall we do with that stuff? We present this simple outline to the Body of Christ in hopes that it will help provide for some a philosophical / theological framework through which these physical phenomena may be viewed and interpreted. We hope to write more extensively on this subject in the near future which will include case studies, testimonies, and ways to administrate these manifestations in the local church.
II. Biblical Precedents for the Manifestations
. The Bible does not record all the possible legitimate supernatural experiences. Rather it records examples of legitimate supernatural experiences that fall into broader categories that are typical of how the Holy Spirit works. This concept is taught in Jn. 21:25 in which John states that if all the works that Jesus did had been recorded, all the books in the world could not contain them! God is always and forever free to do unprecedented things that are consistent with His character and the principles of Scripture.
. Sometimes people stretch Scripture to try to prove the validity of some manifestation that is not explicitly referred to in the Bible. (ex. trying to find proof texts for uncontrollable laughing, yet, it is not specifically mentioned in Scripture. However, “joy unspeakable and full of glory” is!)
. To test the validity of a manifestation we should look at: the overall beliefs and life-styles (and changes in them!) of those affected, the overall beliefs and life-styles of those being used to impart the experience, the short and long term “fruit” of the experience, and the overall glory given to Jesus Christ in the general context in which the manifestations are occurring. Jonathan Edwards referred to five tests to determine if a manifestation is a true work of the Holy Spirit. He states that Satan cannot and would not, if he could, generate these kinds of things in people. If we can answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, then it is to be regarded as genuine despite any “little objections, as many (people) make from oddities, irregularities, errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors (people who claim to be believers)” (i.e. some “human mixture” does not invalidate a general work of true revival, in fact, some should be expected).
1. Does it bring honor to the person of Jesus Christ?
2. Does it produce a greater hatred of sin and a greater love for righteousness?
3. Does it produce a greater regard for Scripture?
4. Does it lead people into truth?
5. Does it produce a greater love for God and man?
. The basis for the occurrence of physical manifestations is rooted in the Biblical doctrine of the “manifest presence” of God.
1. Contrasted with the “omnipresence” of God — i.e. God is everywhere, but He also reveals His powerful presence at specific times, in particular places, and for various reasons.
2. God “comes down” and interfaces with the natural realm.
3. When the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, infinite, holy, just, and loving God condescends to “come down” and touch weak and finite humans, what would you expect or predict might happen to the natural and normal order of things?
. A few Biblical examples of the “manifest presence” of God:
Jn. 18:6 — Unbelieving guards thrown to the ground
Acts 9:4 — Saul of Tarsus saw brilliant light, thrown from his horse, heard Jesus audibly, was temporarily struck blind
Rev. 1:17 — John fell as dead, had no bodily strength, and saw and heard into the spirit world
Dan. 8:17; 7-10, 15-19 — Daniel fell, had no strength, terrified by Gods presence
1 Kg. 8:10,11 — The priest couldn’t stand because of Gods glory
2 Chr. 7:1-3 — Solomon and priest couldn’t stand because of Gods glory
Acts 10:10, 21:1 — Peter and Paul fall into trances and see and hear into the spirit world
1 Sam. 19:18-24 — King Saul and his antagonistic men are overcome by the Holy Spirit and prophesy as they near the camp of the prophets
Ex. 19:16(f.) — Thunder, smoke, shaking of the ground, sounds of trumpets and voices upon Mt. Sinai
Ex. 34:30(f.) — Moses’ face supernaturally shines
Mt. 17:2-8 — Jesus and his garment supernaturally made brilliant, supernatural cloud and visited by Moses and Elijah
Ex. 3:2 — Bush is burning but not consumed
Jn. 1:32 – The Holy Spirit descends in bodily form as a dove
Lev. 9:24; 1 Kg. 18:38; 1 Chr. 21:26 — Fire from heaven consumes sacrifices
2 Cor. 5:12, 13 — Paul describes being “beside himself” as opposed to being “sober”
Luke 2:35 – A virgin conceives the Son of God
III. Historical Precedents for the Manifestations
Extraordinary physical phenomena caused by the operation of the Holy Spirit’s presence upon people is fully documented and affirmed throughout the history of revivals in virtually every branch of the Christian church. Following are just several of hundreds of possible quotations substantiating this fact.
. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) on being “rapt in ecstasy” — “The subject rarely loses consciousness; I have sometimes lost it altogether, but only seldom and for but a short time. As a rule the consciousness is disturbed; and though incapable of action with respect to outward things, the subject can still hear and understand, but only dimly, as though from a long way off…” Overcome By The Spirit (Chosen Books, 1990), Francis MacNutt
. Jonathan Edwards, regarded to be one of the greatest theologians of history, lived during the time of the Great Awakening in America in the 1730’s and 1740’s. Edwards provides the most thoughtful and comprehensive biblical evaluations, reflections and writings about the manifestations of the Spirit. (Taken from A Narrative of Surprising Conversations and the Great Awakening, Vol 4 of The Works Of Edwards)
“It was very wonderful to see how person’s affections were sometimes moved — when God did as it were suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds a sense of the greatness of his grace, the fullness of Christ, and his readiness to save…Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping. Sometimes they have not ben able to forbear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration” (Narrative pp. 37-38)
“…some persons having had such longing desires after Christ or which have risen to such degree, as to take away their natural strength. Some have been so overcome with a sense of the dying love of Christ to such poor, wretched, and unworthy creatures, as to weaken the body. Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of himself, it would have dissolved their frame… And they have talked, when able to speak of the glory of Gods perfections” (Narrative p. 45)
“It was a very frequent thing to see an house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions and such like, both with distress, and also with admiration and joy.” (The Great Awakening p. 547)
“many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they ever had been before; and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imagination, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.” (The Great Awakening p. 550)
. The following was the report of an atheist “free thinker” named James B. Finley, who attended the Cane Ridge, Kentucky revival in 1801: “The noise was like the roar of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm… Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting vociferously. While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected…At one time I saw at least five hundred, swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens…I fled for the woods a second time, and wished I had stayed at home.” (Quoted from When the Spirit Comes With Power by John White p.70)
IV. Catalogue of Manifestations
The Hebrew and biblical model of the unity of personality implies that the spirit affects the body. At times the human spirit is so affected by the glory of God, the human body is not capable of containing the intensity of the spiritual encounters and strange physical behavior results. Sometimes, though certainly not always, the bodily responses are human responses to the Spirit’s activity and not directly caused by the Holy Spirit. However, this does not imply that they are therefore carnal and should be forbidden. Following are phenomena that have been observed in contemporary experience:
shaking, jerking, loss of bodily strength, heavy breathing, eyes fluttering, lips trembling, oil on the body, changes in skin color, weeping, laughing, “drunkenness”, staggering, travailing, dancing, falling, visions, hearing audibly into spirit realm, inspired utterances — i.e. prophecy, tongues, interpretation, angelic visitations and manifestations, jumping, violent rolling, screaming, wind, heat, electricity, coldness, nausea as discernment of evil, smelling or tasting good or evil presences, tingling, pain in the body as discernment of illnesses, feeling heavy weight or lightness, trances-altered physical state while seeing and hearing into the spirit world, inability to speak normally, disruption of natural realm — i.e. electrical circuits blown.
V. Purposes for the Manifestations
. God often chooses foolish things to accomplish His work (1 Cor. 1:27-28). He offends the mind to test the heart. In the account of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2:12-13, some people were amazed, some perplexed, and some mocked. We continue to see these three responses to the work of the Spirit today. This “way of God” challenges our improper “control issues” and breaks down our unsanctified inhibitions and pride.
. The demonstration of Gods power through signs and wonders — signs point to the God who is beyond them; wonders cause intrigue concerning the mystery of Gods ways. God wants our faith to rest upon his power and not the wisdom of men’s words (1 Cor 2:4-5).
. Experiential intimacy with God — knowing God and being known by Him.
. Grace and power to overcome inner bondages — fear, lust, pride, envy, greed, deceit, bitterness, etc.
. Impartations of love, peace, joy, fear of God, etc.
. Healings — physical and emotional.
. Bonding experiences with other believers — relational barriers fall when people experience the Spirit’s presence together.
. Empowering for ministering to others — anointing for service.
. Release of Gods word — prophetic sensitizing, powerful preaching.
. Intercession — apprehended for effective, Spirit-led prayer.
. Enlarging and liberating of spiritual capacities.
. The manifestations are given for refreshment, encouragement, and healing. This should lead to deeper discipleship (growth in faith, hope and love). This should then leads to effective evangelism and, hopefully, full revival.
VI. Exposing False Equations About the Manifestations
. “If I was more devoted, then I would experience these manifestations of the Spirit.” The experience of these things are not related to our spiritual passion and diligence, but are the operation of the grace and providence of God.
. “Many people were visibly touched by the Holy Spirit. Revival is here!” Actually the classical understanding of revival goes far beyond the experience of manifestations to deep and far-reaching spiritual and practical transformations of individuals, spiritual movements, geographic regions and whole nations. The terms “refreshing” and “renewal” are more appropriate for the present work of the Spirit. Hopefully it will lead to full revival. All the more then, let us keep praying and believing for it!
. “Those people God is using to impart his power are really mature and sensitive to God. God must really love them a lot more than He does me. But if I’m diligent enough, maybe I’ll become qualified to do those same things.” People who have moved in “power ministry” have often unwittingly conveyed the notion that the power gifts are merit badges of spirituality. This has brought many dedicated and sincere believers into condemnation. These gifts and callings are free gifts of grace and God gives them as He wills to various members of the Body of Christ. In times of spiritual visitation more members than normal are used to impart the Holy Spirit.
. “Just be open and sensitive to the Holy Spirit and you will get touched too.” It would be much less perplexing if this was the way it worked, but it doesn’t. Although people may have emotional barriers that hinder the work of the Spirit, many who are skeptical and cynical have been powerfully and visibly touched by God. Others who are very open and hungry for a touch are not powerfully affected, at least outwardly. We must refrain from judging who is “open” and who is “closed” and assuming this may be aiding or hindering a person from receiving from God. If you believe you may have such a barrier, ask God to reveal the nature of it to you. He will be faithful, in His time, to answer such a request. In the meantime, do not assume that it must be a barrier that is keeping you from receiving from God.
. “If it was truly the Holy Spirit touching and moving upon these people, then there will be instant and/or lasting “fruit” in their lives. Actually, God moves upon and woos people closer to Himself who never bring forth the fruit that He intends through these encounters with His grace. There are no guarantees that “fruit” will result from these “divine invitations”. People are free to respond fully, partially, or even ignore such spiritual opportunities.
. “If it is really the power of the Holy Spirit on these people, then they should not have any control over their responses and behavior.” There is such a thing as “uncontrollable” experiences with the Spirit; however, these are actually more uncommon than many people think. There is a mysterious combination of the divine and human powers surrounding the Spirit’s work. Peter knew how to walk and had the power to do so when Jesus invited him out onto the water. The supernatural side of the event was that he didn’t sink as he walked. On the front end of welcoming the Spirit’s manifest presence, there is more control at our disposal to respond to his activity. In the middle of a welcomed experience with the Spirit, there is typically less control on the human side, but even still, there remains an ability to “pull out” of the experience if the need or desire is present. There are exceptions to this general rule and we must learn to recognize them, “There is a time for everything,” said Solomon. The Holy Spirit knows this (He wrote it!), and He is not necessarily quenched when those in authority in the church or a given meeting discern, for instance, that the time for quiet, attentive listening to the preaching of the Scripture has come and they therefore ask the assembly to respond accordingly. This is not automatically to be considered the manifestation of a “control spirit”! Loving community implies individual restraint. Absolute freedom is absolute nonsense!
VII. Exposing Dangers Regarding the Manifestations
. Possibility of divisions and judgements within the body — we must seek to avoid the “have’s” and “have not’s” mentality at all costs. this will truly grieve the Spirit of God (see Rom. 14 and 1 Cor. 12-14). Love for God and one another must remain the preeminent value of our community.
. Fanaticism — in their enthusiasm, people can get carried away into excesses of behavior and be deluded into embracing strange and unbiblical ideas. This problem must be addressed as it arises. We should seek to do this with compassion both privately and publicly. This is a very delicate procedure, for the true fire of the Spirit will always be attended by a measure of “wild fire” introduced by the fleshly elements still resident within imperfect believers.
. Neglect of the less intoxicating and less noticeable aspects of our faith — things such as: daily devotions, secret prayer, humble service, helping the poor, showing mercy, loving enemies, suffering patiently, honoring parents and other authorities, restraining appetites, training children, working 8 to 5, doing chores and errands, paying tithes, bills, and taxes, resolving relational conflicts, and being faithful friends.
. Casting off all restraints and disciplines in the name of “the liberty of the Spirit”. This tension between liberty and restraint must be embraced by the whole church. We will not always agree with how this tension is stewarded by the members of the body. Be prepared to “swallow some gnats” to avoid “swallowing camels”.
. Becoming distracted from focusing on God and other present purposes (i.e. passion for Jesus, small groups, community, intercession, evangelism) by undue time, fascination and attention given to the manifestations themselves.
. Falling into the pride of grace — there is no uglier form of pride than the arrogant boastings or subtle self-righteousness of people who have been blessed by the Spirit. These graces are dispensed to magnify the grace and mercy of God and lead us into gratitude and humility. If we do not humble ourselves, God, in His love, will at some point allow us to be humiliated.
. Spreading of rumors and misinformation — although some of this is unavoidable, with good communication and proper qualifiers they can be reduced. Take no delight in and work at doubting bad reports!
. Exalting outward manifestations above the inward and hidden work of the Spirit within people’s hearts. Progressive internal transformation into the image of Jesus is the ultimate goal of the Spirit’s work.
. Exalting the weak human instruments that God is especially using as catalysts in the work of the Spirit — we must avoid any kind of “hero worship” within our hearts. However, the “facelessness” of Gods army does not mean that there will not be any visible leaders or prominent members with public ministries within the body. It refers to the attitude of humility, submission and deference that all the members and leaders embrace within their hearts.
VIII. Proper Responses to the Manifestations
. Taking the posture of being “learners” rather than “experts” in the ministry of the Spirit.
. Being gracious, kind and patient with differences in perspectives within the community of believers.
. Giving proper liberty and creating sufficient opportunities for the Spirit to manifest Himself.
. Encouraging proper restraints — we are appealing for sensitivity to the situation and context. What does love “look like” or require in this particular setting? Seek to submit to those in authority for the sake of peace and unity. Appeal to them in private if you disagree with the direction they gave or are giving to the body.
. Being open and willing to freely receive from God.
. Not striving to “make something happen”.
. Expressing gratitude for the present grace of God.
. Taking time to wait and be patient in ministry situations.
. Searching the Scriptures.
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