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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

The Spirit Compelled Me

If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”

(Acts 11:17 NKJV)

In the book of Acts there were no churches (communities/buildings) as we understand them today, but from house to house the testimony spread. When in the early 1900s, a "revival" began to flare up in various countries and nations, those who experience it have no intention of founding a new church. Far from it. They will be forced later when not accepted by their home communities. No revival has ever passed peacefully. And the episode in Acts chapter 11 is proof of this. The apostle Peter, after being in the house of Cornelius, challenged by the Spirit to go beyond his legalistic prejudices, has to justify himself in Jerusalem to the brethren anchored in Judaism. His defense will be, "I was as if in ecstasy. The Spirit compelled me." And it was these words that solved the nascent communal problem. Before the Spirit men kept silent. The church at that time recognized the Spirit's right of precedence, as will happen in Antioch and everywhere. Can it happen again? Are we able to recognize His action?

To associate the Spirit's action solely with prayer, of an individual or a community, is somewhat reductive. Prayer certainly serves us to sharpen our spiritual senses, to discern whether it is to God or not, to understand the best choice to make. Would you like to be among those who can tell like Peter, "The Spirit has compelled me"? Our passionate invocation today should be "Compel me," with greater courage, imbued with a humble awareness of our condition. Let it be clear, however, that any compulsion of the Spirit may be beyond our way of thinking, but not against the Scriptures. God never contradicts himself. Peter went to Cornelius bringing the Gospel and salvation according to God's plan, while Paul will deliver Hymenaeus and Alexander to the devil after they "made shipwreck in the faith," even ending up blaspheming (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

The theology of the Spirit is the theology of the divine presence. A "holy" presence, as indicated by the adjective that follows or precedes it. The Spirit is holy because he sanctifies our lives: "he who is holy continues to sanctify himself," exhorts Revelation (22:11) in the closing lines. It is also a presence of freedom: "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Corinthians 3:17). An inner freedom, both moral and ethical, that shatters sin and restores to each of us a spiritual autonomy that is the source of all other freedom (Galatians 5:13). The freedom to which we are called is regulated by the Law of the Spirit, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2). Let us be clear: there is no freedom where the Law is absent. The Law of the Spirit guides the believer in the paths of the Word, not in an atmosphere of mysticism, but of revelation and unveiling, helping him to place his life in the following of Christ, and never in His place. Let no one arrogate to himself the ownership or control of the Spirit. If at the origins of the Pentecostal revival expressions such as "I have the Spirit" were tolerable for the little culture, not so today. We never possess the Spirit, but we desire the Spirit to have full control of our lives.

As you read the Spirit can reveal His presence, creating the miracle of faith here and there. I find it appropriate with a warning from Vittorio Subilia (1966), "Whenever the Church makes the Spirit of God a refugee, it is she -- the Church -- not the Spirit, who becomes a vagabond." Wherever the situation turns out to be serious, let us remember that it cannot be solved by human solutions, but the master of the field will always intervene at the appropriate time. The work is His! As for the talk about the Spirit, we have a duty to keep it alive and open. That is why I hope that we can at length practice familiarizing ourselves with the Spirit. What makes me confident and allows me to sleep peacefully is the truth described as follows: "The Spirit is there, even today, as in the time of Jesus and the apostles: He is there and He is working, He comes before us, He works more than we do and better than we do; it is not up to us to sow Him or to awaken Him, but first of all to recognize Him, to welcome Him, to go along with Him, to go after Him. It is there and has never lost heart with respect to our time; on the contrary, it smiles, dances, penetrates, invests, envelops, reaches where we never imagined. Faced with the nodal crisis of our age, which is the loss of the sense of the invisible and the transcendent, the crisis of the sense of God, the Spirit is playing, in invisibility and littleness, his victorious game" (C.M. Martini 2002).


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #31

July 24, Psalms 35-36; Acts 25

July 25, Psalms 37-39; Acts 26

July 26, Psalms 40-42; Acts 27:1-26

July 27, Psalms 43-45; Acts 27:27-44

July 28, Psalms 46-48; Acts 28

July 29, Psalms 49-50; Romans 1

July 30, Psalms 51-53; Romans 2

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