The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Series
Spiritual Manifestations and Human Reactions
Tue, 10 Sep 2013 - 3:22 PM CST
By Delmer R. Guynes
An electric fan was placed on the concrete floor of the missions house in Penang, Malaysia, to circulate and freshen the air. The fan was whirring smoothly but was missing its mark. The missionary stepped barefoot across the floor to adjust the fan. As he touched the controls, he was met by a tremendous shock. He became the ground for the electrical current, and 220 volts at 50 cycles per second sent him reeling, leaving him dazed and with a numb arm.
This incident illustrates the distinction between manifestation and reaction. Because the fan was constructed properly and in essentially good operating order, electrical energy was manifested through the machine in a purposeful way. A human organism out of harmony with the same electrical force was shocked and reacted by jerking back, crying out, and contorting physically.
Both activities are normal. Fan blades turn and circulate air in response to electrical current. And anyone receiving a shock in a similar circumstance would react as this man did.
The Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was characterized by divine manifestations and physical reactions. The baptism in the Holy Spirit brought the sound of wind, visible tongues of fire, and human articulation of the words of the Spirit. Undoubtedly, there were other physical reactions to this spiritual experience that may have given rise to the suggestion of drunkenness on the part of the disciples.
Later on in similar settings, the house shook; there was great joy, and a healed man leaped and praised God. The only consistent abiding human response, however, was speaking with tongues. Speaking with tongues became the continuing recognizable physical response to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was a physical experience, producing the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through human agency.
Consider other normal human reactions to spiritual force. An incident in Jacob’s life provides a prime example (Genesis 32). A life and death struggle developed between Jacob and the heavenly visitor. Jacob was out of touch with God and the impact of spiritual force produced by the encounter brought a violent physical reaction. The “wrestling” continued through the night. As morning broke, Jacob was brought into harmony with divine power through confessing his real identity followed by the transforming power of the touch upon his life and body.
Saul is another example. He was out of touch and harmony with God. His first revelation of Jesus Christ sent him crashing to the earth leaving him blinded for several days (Acts 9). There is a difference in being smitten to the ground as Saul of Tarsus and in bowing humbly at the feet of Jesus as many do in hours of contrition and worship.
Elijah is another illustration in a slightly different vein. After his victory at Mt. Carmel over the priests of Baal and his superhuman dash ahead of Ahab’s chariot (1 Kings 18), he was suddenly overtaken by emotional and physical exhaustion. He became fearful, totally discouraged, wishing to die. The strength from angel’s food brought Elijah to Mt. Horeb where he underwent a spiritual confrontation with God (1 Kings 19:9–18).
There were several earthly and physical reactions to the presence of God. After the natural reactions subsided, Elijah heard a still small voice to which he responded. Thus a manifestation of the Spirit was experienced after reaction had gained his attention.
DESIRABLE BIBLICAL REACTIONS
Many human reactions to spiritual influences are biblical. David, in an hour of great exuberance and thanksgiving, “danced before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14). Daniel fell on his face as a dead man before the angelic presence (Daniel 10:9). The man healed of lameness leaped (Acts 3:8). We are exhorted to clap our hands (Psalm 47:1) and to stand in awe of His presence (Psalm 33:8). We are told to glorify God with timbrel, song, and dance (Psalm 149:3) and with a loud voice (2 Chronicles 20:19). These are all human responses or reactions to divine stimulation.
I had a most humbling experience when I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I received the Spirit’s fullness literally beneath the altar. Afterwards, it seemed to me that spiritual blessing was directly related to falling on the floor! When a great spiritual move occurred, I would immediately prostrate myself. This became a great hindrance to the progress of the meetings, and I was instructed that what was of great significance at one point in my spiritual life need not become a habitual reaction.
HABITS OF REACTION
Habits of reaction to the Holy Spirit’s presence are easily formed, especially in times of spiritual revival when people are coming into meaningful spiritual experience for the first time. But sometimes these habits of reaction can distract from a true spirit of worship and disturb others as well.
The purpose of Paul’s first writing to the Corinthian church was in part to help those wonderfully spiritual enthusiasts understand that all human response to the manifest presence of God must be made to edify the church and glorify God. Any reaction that distracts from the true purpose of the Holy Spirit’s working, exalts human nature or ability, brings confusion and contradiction, or is done habitually without meaning is to be subdued in public services. If it is a legitimate reaction in keeping with biblical patterns, then it may be enjoyed in private worship or in a personal way during corporate worship without distracting others.
HUMAN REACTION DISTINCT FROM MANIFESTATION
First Corinthians 12 to 14 deals with both human reaction to spiritual stimulation and spiritual manifestation. But the basic concern of these verses has to do with enabling the Holy Spirit to manifest himself meaningfully through human agency.
The manifestations of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:1–11 are identified as spiritual gifts: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. These are recognized categories of Holy Spirit manifestation and should never be confused with mere human reaction to the Spirit.
The aim of Paul’s instruction was to develop within the Corinthians a sense of discrimination between human reaction to the Spirit and pure manifestation of the Holy Spirit through human agency. The degree to which human reaction is controlled in a spiritual atmosphere may determine the effectiveness of the pure manifestation of the Spirit.
HARMONIZING WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
The degree to which spiritually minded people bring their lives into harmony with God’s purposes, His manner of working, and the power of the Holy Spirit will determine the effectiveness of the Spirit’s manifestation. It is marvelous to observe these manifestations when the human agency is in full harmony with the Spirit’s working.
We have heard messages in tongues and interpretations similar in content but vastly different in the manner given. A message of love from the Holy Spirit may be given in a violent manner that completely nullifies the impact of the message. A discernment of unprofitable spiritual activity can be made in such a human way as to hurt deeply the individual involved or destroy the effectiveness of the service, when quiet instruction and guidance is what is needed.
Even healings and miracles can be so enveloped by humanisms that the real impact of their significance is lost in the fanfare of human reaction. How many times in a delicate altar service, when souls were hanging in the balance and a heavy spirit of conviction gripped a congregation, has a human reaction to the Spirit or even an unharmonized manifestation distorted the atmosphere, kept souls from a decision, and grieved the Holy Spirit because His primary purpose was usurped?
Paul suggests to the Corinthian church that there is an excellent way the pure manifestations of the Holy Spirit may be harmonized with human nature and vice versa. This is the way of love (1 Corinthians 13). When individuals are enveloped in God’s love and motivated by love for God and love for humanity, both reaction and manifestation attain a grace and beauty of perfection that nothing else can give and without which even manifestation becomes distorted and undesirable.
The spiritually sensitive child of God can have a degree of harmony with the Holy Spirit’s working that will make possible the most beautiful and powerful biblical manifestations. How wonderfully lives are blessed, the church is edified, souls are saved, and the name of Christ is magnified when a life is so totally integrated with divine purpose, power, and love as to allow the untarnished manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Few have attained this degree of human conformity to divine activity, but it is a goal worthy of dedicated study and application.
Delmer R. Guynes, Ed.D., is former president of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas.
Adapted from Paraclete 4, no. 2 (Spring 1970): 26–30.