The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

Introduction

Many today see the Holy Spirit as a “being” shrouded in mystery.  Some today see Him as a power used by God, but not an actual person.  Others see Him as a mystical force that is literally all around us within the universe.  Some believe He is a spirit that fills us today with miraculous gifts and powers.  There are also some who see Him as simply the mind of God.

Before beginning our study we should not assume that any divine being is easy to comprehend.  We can only understand that of God which He has chosen to reveal to us, and even that which has been revealed can be confusing to the human mind.  Today many, who wish to justify their beliefs or practices have distorted the person and work of the Holy Spirit to suit their own needs.  This distortion has created much confusion about the true role of the Holy Spirit.

Some difficulties of our understanding arise from the text itself.  The Greek word pneuma (spirit) is used in a variety of ways which gives rise to different meanings.  It may refer to the Father (2nd Cor. 3:17), Christ(Rom. 8:9), man(Prov. 18:14), miraculous gifts(Acts 2:1-4), the influence of the Holy Spirit(John 14:15-21), the indwelling of the Spirit(John 14:15-21), the character or essence of something(Job 32:8), a demonic being(Luke 7:19-21), or even how the wind is like the Holy Spirit(John 3:8).  It takes a careful treatment of each passage in context to decide what “spirit” means wherever it is used.

Sometimes pneuma is preceded by a definite article “the,” while sometimes it is not.  Also some Greek, which we receive translations for our Bible today, did not designate names with capital letters, so it is left to translators to decide it the word should read Spirit or spirit.

The fact that the Spirit is more challenging to understand than the Father or the Son establishes the wisdom of God in revealing Himself through Jesus.  It is easier for us indeed to understand the Father and the Son because the Son has appeared on this earth in our human form.  However, to better understand the Holy Spirit God has provided a path as well and that is the Scriptures of the Bible.  This study will assist in a better understanding to all who read by looking at Scripture to define the Holy Spirit’s role and responsibility.

The Holy Spirit – A Personal Being

Webster’s dictionary defines person as: “A being characterized by conscious apprehension, rationality, and a moral sense.”  This defines the Holy Spirit!  We understand that functions of a person are to: help, teach, remind, testify, convict, guide, speak, hear, tell, glorify, and declare.  Another function of a person is to have knowledge.  1st Cor. 2:9-11 He has knowledge and He searches.  In Gen. 1:2 He has creative power and presence.  Consider the word “another” in John 14:16, He is a helper of the same type as Jesus is a helper to God in this verse.  This verse alone points out that the Holt Spirit is a person or being the same as Jesus was a person and is eternally a being.

As a “person” the Holy Spirit loves (Rom. 15:30), can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32), can be led to (Acts 5:3), and can be insulted (Heb. 1:29).  His activity shows rationality: He directs Paul in his preaching (Acts 16:6-7), He distributes gifts “as He wills” (1st Cor. 12:4, 11), He instructs the Gentiles as He desires (Acts 15:28-29).

In Matt. 3:16-17, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to we read the account of the baptism of Jesus.  In this account visually the Spirit can be seen as an individual being separate from the Father and the Son.  “16When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Also we see the distinctiveness of the 3 in the book of John.  The Spirit is sent by the Father (14:26), He testifies of the Son (15:26), He does not speak of Himself (16:13).  This indicates He is separate from the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit acts within the realms of a “person” as defined by the Scriptures.  He has his own unique role in God’s plan of salvation, just as the Son has His role.  He is not just a power used by God, a mythical spirit, gift of powers, and certainly not just the mind of God.  The Holy Spirit is a being that is deity and a helper to God, just as Jesus is.

The Holy Spirit – The Godhead

“Godhead” is a term that denotes the personality and attributes of the deity of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures indicate that these characteristics are possessed by three distinct beings, these three beings who are one in nature and purpose.  Three different words are translated from the Greek into “Godhead” in the KJV.

1)     Romans 1:20, Theiotes – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” The divine “persons” worked in concert in the creation of the world; therefore the creation reveals to us the invisible attributes of God.  Also in Gen. 1:2, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”  This suggests the role of the Spirit in organizing the chaos of the earth and giving it form.

2)     Acts 17:29, Theos – Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”  The creation of man suggests the living, personal nature of the Godhead.  Again, if we go back to Gen. 1:26 we see how we the “offspring” were thought of when created.  “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

3)     Colossians 2:9-10, Theotes – “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.”  This reveals to us that Jesus, the Son, revealed Himself to us in the human form and represented the fullness of all three beings of the Godhead.  This human form is why many of us have an easier time grasping the reality of the Son as opposed to the Spirit.

We can further look to the cooperative action of the Godhead in the following verses: Matt. 3:16-17 – again we see all 3 of the Godhead beings at the baptism of Jesus, Titus 3:4-6 – shows 3 different roles in the man’s salvation planned by God the Father, 2nd Cor. 13:14 – signifies three items that the Godhead can give to us individually, Matt. 28:19 – signifies that we are to be baptized into all three names of the Godhead.  Though the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, it does describe a Bible concept; it is the idea of “three in one.”  There is only one God (1st Cor. 8:5-6) but are three distinct beings in the Godhead of which one is the Holy Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Conversion

The Holy Spirit works in unison with the Godhead in conversion yet has His own role to play.  The Father planned the scheme of redemption, the Son executed it, and the Spirit reveals the truth of God and redemption to man.  Let us now look 3 areas to help us better understand the Holy Spirit and conversion.

Is a Direct Operation Needed?

Many influenced by Calvinistic teaching have come to believe that the role of the Spirit in conversion is to actually alter one’s mind and heart in such a way that renders it incapable of not responding to the gospel.  This comes from the Calvinistic idea of total depravity.  This idea holds that man has been so affected by sin that he cannot understand or respond unless God makes it possible for him to do so.  This idea certainly leads some to ask, why then is it necessary that there should be an influence of the Spirit, in addition to that of the word of God?  This false view can have the effect of rendering the word of God powerless to promote change.  However, the Bible tells us differently and states that the Spirit does have a role and we will now look further to what that is.

            Emphasis upon the Gospel

The New Testament focuses upon the power of the gospel to change lives, let us look to examples.  In the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Luke 8:5-15 note the different soils/hearts, including the “noble and good heart” (Luke 8:15).  This parable would be meaningless if we assume that the Spirit only enables one group of hearts to respond.  That would make God a respecter of persons, but Acts 10:34-35 and Romans 2:11 speak against that idea.  However the Spirit allows all who hear the word of God to respond and be converted.

Continuing with the “seed” theme James 1:18, 21 says, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth… receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”  Another example is found in 1st Peter 1:22-25, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit… having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever… Now this is the word by which the gospel was preached to you.”

The very existence of the powerful word of God is directly linked to the Spirit; therefore, we are equipped with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).  Now that we have made this connection we should note the following correlations between the gospel and the Spirit. 

  • Born of the Spirit (John 3:5) = Born through the word of God (1st Pet. 1:23-25)
  • Saved by washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) = Saved by implanted word (James 1:21)
  • Washed by the Spirit of our God (1st Cor. 6:11) = Washing of water by word (Eph. 5:26)

We could continue to look at correlations, but the point is made that the Spirit plays an important role in Salvation.  However, what I want to point out is that while the Spirit reveals understanding to us and can move us to belief, the belief or unbelief still rest upon man’s free will.  Acts 13:46 tells us that some who heard the word of God rejected it.  Jesus makes the same point in Matthew 23:37 when He said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Paul even says the Holy Spirit Himself anticipated stubbornness to the truth, 25So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”’

28“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” 29And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.”  These words are not written because the Spirit had not enlightened them but rather to tell us that some will become stubborn and will choose not to receive the truths presented.  The Spirit can only work on us through the gospel of Christ if man allows Him to, it is ultimately our choice.

            What Did Holy Spirit Directly do for the Lost in the First Century?

In the first century He worked in broader ways than today; just as once there was a need for gifts but now the need has ceased He has ceased using the following avenues.  The book of Acts supplies us with several examples of the Spirit working to spread the gospel.  In chapter 8:26, 29 He directed a preacher to one who was searching for God’s truth.  Chapter 10:3. 19-22 shows the Spirit directing messengers from a lost man to a particular apostle and encouraged the apostle to accompany them and teach the gospel.  He stipulated which men He wanted to leave Antioch and go preach to others areas in chapter 13:2-4.  He even guided apostles and preachers to a particular region in chapter 16:6-10. 

Note that in the above examples nothing is said of the Spirit affecting the heard of a lost person.  In every case, it was through the preaching of the gospel that men were given an opportunity to accept or reject salvation.  The Scriptures are powerful and sufficient enough to bring the sinner to Christ because of the author, God the Father.  However, the Spirit still has a role to play even today through His divine revelation to convict and convert sinners who seek the truth.

 

The Holy Spirit and Jesus

The Old Testament lays the blueprint for the life of the Messiah to come.  There are hundreds of prophecies given throughout to teach God’s people about the Christ to come.  The Holy Spirit and Jesus have been linked together for us from the beginning; because we know that all Scripture was given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the writer.

First, the two are linked together at the time of Jesus’ birth.  When the angel Gabriel explains to Mary she will “bring forth a Son,” (Luke 1:31) Mary questioned how this could occur.  The answer Gabriel provides her shows us a verse to see the two connected,  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). 

As previously stated Jesus’ baptism also shows another instance of the Spirit and Jesus being connected yet in separate beings.  “He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove,” (Matthew 3:16).  Afterward, Jesus was “filled with the Spirit… and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).  After being tempted for 40 days in the wilderness, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” (Luke 4:14).

Another instance is seen from Peter’s testimony when teaching the Gentiles about the significance of Jesus, whom they must come to know in order to be saved.  Acts 10:38 Peter says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

Also in Romans we see that when Jesus claims victory over death and Satan that again the Spirit plays a role with Jesus Christ.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…” (Rom. 8:11).  The Spirit of God and Jesus can almost be seen as a team fulfilling God’s will for mans salvation.

Notice the accounts we have just observed, Jesus is said to be anointed with the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, raised by the Spirit, and the Spirit was upon Him.  The Spirit plays a very crucial role in Jesus coming to the earth and being born, being led in all truth, healing, and through being raised fulfilling God’s will for mans salvation.

The Holy Spirit and Baptism

Many people today misunderstand the purpose and who can be a recipient of baptism of the Holy Spirit.  We need to ask ourselves the following questions and then look for answers in the Bible.  Is it something we can receive today?  Can Christians receive such an experience?  What was the purpose of Holy Spirit baptism in New Testament times?

Let us begin by reading Mark 16:17-20.  In this passage Jesus gives His apostles a commission to follow, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  After which He explains the dynamic of how they will be able to prove they are of Jesus and the Father by performing signs in His name.

If we can receive Holy Spirit baptism and the power to perform signs today we should do so in Jesus’ name.  However, we simply do not have a need to prove anything for Jesus as the first century Christians did.  The fullness of God’s revelation has been completed through Jesus and His resurrection and the word of God in the Bible.

Having seen the reason for Holy Spirit baptism and the .Hgifts, we may ask, why did the gifts cease?  Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 13:8-11, “Love never fails.  But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

The gift of tongues, prophecy and knowledge during the Acts period were only “in part,” they were incomplete, they did not communicate the full knowledge that the Lord wanted to reveal.  But the Lord revealed to Paul “that which is perfect” was coming.  Paul was not writing about the coming of “He who is perfect” but of the coming of a “thing” which is perfect.  That thing was the complete revelation of God’s mind to man through God breathed Scriptures.  When it came, then the gifts which were only “in part” would cease.

Unfortunately, many religious people are lead astray on this topic today.  However, if we follow the commandments of God and not the commandments of men we will see that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is no longer given by God.  Matthew 15:7-9 advises us that there will be those who will attempt to honor God but will do so with the commandments of men.  This verse tells us those people will not be acceptable to God.  While some teach Holy Spirit baptism is alive and that they have gifts today, the Bible plainly contradicts their teachings.  The purpose of the Holy Spirit baptism and gifts were to spread the word and build faith while the revelation was being given to all.  Now that we have been given the fullness of God’s revelation Paul tells us there is no need for them to continue.

The Holy Spirit – Indwelling

A close relationship is often expressed by the terminology of “indwelling.”  It is common to speak to those we love as dwelling within us in our hearts; this terminology is even used in the Bible in Philippians 1:7 and 2nd Cor. 7:3.  For instance if I am away from my wife, I may say, “She is always with me in my heart.”  What do you understand that to mean?  You would know I meant I am mindful of her, devoted to her, her love is with me, etc.  Such is the relationship we have with God and the Spirit.  We are not literally slaves of the Spirit but in a relationship characterized by love when we are baptized and saved.

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, the Bible says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  Also, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, the Scripture says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”  In addition, the Word says, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you,” (Romans 8:9-11).  Finally, Paul tells Timothy, “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us,” (2 Timothy 1:14).

The preceding passages teach an indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian.  The first passage speaks collectively of the church; two others speak individually of the Christian.  Notice that the Romans 8 passage ties the indwelling of the Spirit to our “mortal bodies.”  Based on these passages if someone asked the question, “Does the Holy Spirit dwell in the Christian?”, the answer could not be “no” for the Bible clearly teaches otherwise.  Also, note that the Holy Spirit does not inspire Paul to elaborate on how the Spirit dwells in us.

A host of different theories have been debated and bound as law in some cases by our brethren through the years as to how the Spirit dwells in us.  Some have even said that they do not believe the Spirit dwells in us at all, even “representatively,” or through the Word only.

The theories regarding indwelling are interesting to study, consider, and evaluate.  However, since God has not stated specifically the how of Holy Spirit indwelling, we should be careful not to speak where God has been silent.  His silence on the issue must mean that the “how” of indwelling is neither important nor relevant for us to know in terms of our being faithful to God.

In Ephesians 3:16-17, Paul says, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love…” Here, the Scripture is clear that Christ dwells not in our bodies but in our hearts (the mind) through faith.  We are told, here, of not only the indwelling of Christ, but where and how as well.  However, this same sort of specificity is not found regarding the “how” of Holy Spirit indwelling.

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom.14:17).  It is the Holy Spirit who gives the basis for such righteousness, peace, and joy, and we must attempt to establish the closest bond with Him through the Father’s word to enjoy these gifts.  No Christian disputes the fact of the Spirit’s indwelling.  What is often disputed is the nature of the indwelling.  Whether the indwelling is literal or figurative Christians may never completely know or agree. 

Consider that no matter if we agree or not on the dynamic of the Spirit’s indwelling we need to keep in mind some truths about the Holy Spirit.  The Father has given us His Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14) so let us not anger the Father by living in sin (Heb. 10:26-31).  Whatever we do we should “not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5).  Finally, the Spirit is only given to those who are sons of God, those who have obeyed the Father and followed Christ into baptism for salvation (Gal. 4:6).

Conclusion

I hope that while this study is not exhaustive it is sufficient to establish a case for who the Scriptures tell us the Spirit of God is, what He has done and continues to do for mankind and what His role is for our salvation.  We must be content with the statements of divine revelation on this topic in the Bible and not let our own thoughts and opinions misguide us or others with contrary ideas.  While many false claims continue to be made about the Holy Spirit, let us be careful not to belittle the Spirit by denying His work in our salvation and His power.  Let us not grieve the Spirit by failing to live holy lives; “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Rom. 15:13

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” – 2nd Cor. 13:14

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  1. October 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

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