What Jesus taught his disciples in the gospels regarding preaching the kingdom of God is not negated by the Holy Spirit who descended at Pentecost. Rather, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to preach the gospel with greater boldness and fruitfulness.
How did Jesus command his disciples to proclaim the kingdom of God?
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 6…So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
As they proclaimed the kingdom of God to the lost, the disciples were to heal the sick and cast out demons using the supernatural power and authority he had given them.
At that time the Holy Spirit had not yet come along with his nine supernatural gifts. According to 1 Corinthians 14:12, these gifts were primarily for building up the Church, which would not come into existence until after Pentecost. Before that the disciples were charged with preaching the gospel by supernaturally healing the sick as miraculous evidence that Jesus was the King of the coming Kingdom.
After the Spirit came at Pentecost, the nine supernatural gifts were available. One of them was the gift of healing. This gift as were all nine gifts was primarily for ministering to believers in the context of building up the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7). Did the availability of the gift of healing and the other supernatural gifts now render obsolete the power and authority over disease and demons given by Jesus to his disciples in the gospels?
An examination of Acts reveals that immediately after Pentecost the disciples preached the gospel with extreme boldness. The most compelling illustration of this is Peter. Just days before Pentecost when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane, Peter, fearing for his life, denied knowing Jesus three times. But immediately after being baptized in the Holy Spirit, with (uncharacteristic) boldness Peter preached the gospel before a crowd of Jews and three thousand souls accepted Jesus as the Messiah.
Following Pentecost, the disciples continued to use the Lord’s authority and power to heal the sick as evidence of the gospel to the lost, now with great boldness and fruitfulness.
In Acts 3 after Peter miraculously healed the lame beggar at the Temple Gate by commanding him to “walk”—that is, with the use of authority, a crowd of curious Jews gathered. After Peter boldly preached the gospel to them, the number of the believing men grew to about five thousand.
In Acts 9 after Peter healed Aeneas the paralytic again using authority by commanding him to get up, “all those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Again in the same chapter Peter raises Dorcas back to life through the use of authority by commanding her to “get up.”
Acts 8 records Philip in Samaria “performing” powerful miraculous healings most likely with the use of the same supernatural authority. As a result, many Samaritans believed. It does not say that Philip prayed to God for the sick and then left the results up to Him, as we do traditionally in the Church.
Therefore the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples after Pentecost did not at all negate or render obsolete the way in which Jesus had instructed them to proclaim the kingdom of God in the gospels. Rather, “the Advocate, 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” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit enabled the early disciples to preach the gospel and heal the sick—just as Jesus commanded them in the gospels—with incredible boldness, bringing multitudes into the kingdom of God.
The work of the Holy Spirit is more than what has been taught
Typically we have been told that when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are filled with God’s love, joy, peace, and presence. Some will teach us that material blessings will also follow. The emphasis will usually be on the operation of the gifts of the Spirit. In some circles special emphasis is given to the gift of unknown tongues and the gift of prophecy. We are taught to wait on the Spirit to receive a “rhema” or a supernatural word of knowledge or wisdom in order to know what to do.
But the work of the Spirit can be much more than this.
Acts 1:8 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.”
The Holy Spirit gives us power to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and to fulfill the Great Commission during these Last Days. He enables us fulfill Matthew 24:14 as we train and send out an army of workers into His harvest field according to Luke 10:2.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Luke 10:2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
The Holy Spirit enables us to train harvest workers to do the miraculous works that Jesus did—as evidence to the lost that He is the Messiah (John 14:11-12). The Holy Spirit enables us to support and send out armies of workers into the Lord’s vast harvest field during these Last Days.
We are not simply to keep meeting in church or gathering together as believers to bless and build one another up to enjoy our heaven on earth before our time is up and we depart for heaven above.
No, during our brief time on earth during these Last Days we are to build one another up in the Body of Christ through the gifts ultimately for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission after which Christ returns.
The only chapter in the Bible which discusses the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit is 1 Corinthians 12. There the apostle Paul issues a mild rebuke to the believers for their apparently prideful attitude toward the gifts which resulted in division within the Corinthian church—instead of showing concern for one another. Rather, Paul taught them that LOVE is the most excellent way. Thus in his epistles Paul’s personal view of the gifts in the life of the Church is not as central as some would make them to be today. (Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians might be applied to those ministers today who lay claim to a “special anointing” that others in the body do not have, and using that distinction to attract more followers and of course their accompanying offerings.)
Instead of a singular focus on the supernatural gifts of the Spirit for building up the body, New Testament Scripture rather emphasizes preaching the gospel to the lost in order to fulfill Matthew 24:14. We are to use the Lord’s power and authority to “heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God has come near to you.’ ”
The most important work of the Holy Spirit, therefore, is to enable us to obey the Lord’s command for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In Acts after the Spirit was poured out on the disciples, with extraordinary boldness and fruitfulness they indeed preached the gospel and healed the sick as Jesus commanded in Luke 10:9. Within a few generations, they had taken the gospel to the ends of their known world.
During these Last Days instead of limiting ourselves by focusing almost exclusively on the gifts of the Holy Spirit for building one another up within the Body, let us focus on the greater work of the Spirit enabling us to reach the lost billions outside the Body of Christ.
“…the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”
2 Corinthians 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Based on this verse it has been taught that we should not focus of the words recorded in the New Testament, including the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples. Rather we are to seek and depend primarily on the rhema which the Spirit will give us. The reason for this is because “the letter kills”.
This is a blatant misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:6. “The letter” of which Paul speaks here is the old covenant, that is, the Old Testament Law. Yes, we do not focus on obeying the Law in order to be justified before God. But the Holy Spirit makes us competent as ministers of the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament. The Spirit gives us life by anointing us to understand what Jesus taught especially in the gospels. Put another way, he gives us the rhema to understand the logos — the Written Word of God.
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words [logos] will never pass away.