Sorry for the long delay on continuing this series, but finally here is the next installment…
There is perhaps no more misunderstood, used and abused member of the Trinity than the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is credited with doing all manner of crazy thing and used or abused on national television nightly but so little understood from the Biblical perspective. Really, it is not difficult to understand the Person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, in the Believer and in this world. But in the process of gaining the correct Biblical understanding we may get our theology shaken up a bit in the process. Well, that’s okay. If God’s Word shakes us up that’s the way it ought to be!
One of the reasons why we misunderstand so much concerning the Holy Spirit is because it all seems so “mystical”, or a bit too “supernatural”. We may be a little afraid of that, and if we are then we are afraid of half of what God left us in this world. He left us with His Word and His Holy Spirit and if we eliminate either one we lose half of what God gave us here on earth. This is supernatural! The Holy Spirit is not some mystical force or some unseen power that we can manipulate with the power of our faith. He is the third Person of the Trinity with very specific functions in this world and in the life of the Believer. We’ll break this study down into three parts. The Deity of the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit’s work in the World, and the Holy Spirit’s work in the Believer.
1.) “The Deity of the Holy Spirit” = Just as in our studies on God and on Jesus, one of the most important and distinctive characteristics of the Holy Spirit is His deity. (I use “His” merely as a point of reference) Deity being the claim that the Holy Spirit exhibits all the powers associated with God alone.
A.) The Holy Spirit is Omnipresent = Psalm 139:7-12 Here the Holy Spirit is seen as being everywhere just like God.
B.) The Holy Spirit is Omniscient = 1Cor.2:10 The Holy Spirit knows everything that God knows.
C.) The Holy Spirit is Omnipotent = Luke 1:35, Romans 1:4, Here and in Romans the Holy Spirit is seen with the power to create new life and raise the dead to life.
Not to mention Acts 5:1-4 where Peter tells Ananias that he has lied to the Holy Spirit then explains that by doing that he has lied to God. No clearer declaration of the Holy Spirit’s deity is to be found. The Holy Spirit is seen in the acts of creation in Gen.1:2 and throughout the O.T. interacting in the lives of God’s people. I’ll touch on that a little more in just a few…
With the deity of the Holy Spirit clearly defined we can and have seen the presence of the Trinity throughout scripture. Just by way of reminder, here are a few quick references to the Trinity. Matt.3:16-17 (Jesus’ baptism), Matt.28:19 (Baptism formula), 2Cor.13:14 (Benediction), Eph.4:4-6 (Each One present) and 1Thess.5:18-19 just to name a few. But the Person and work of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the believer…
2.) “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the World” = Not only do we see the Holy Spirit at work in the Creation, but throughout the O.T. There are however some distinctive differences, but let’s start here first; Jesus gives us the teaching in John 16:8-11. He “convicts” the world. That also means “rebuke”, it is generally defined as “creating shame in the one convicted”, or “to bring to light or expose”. So here in John 16 Jesus explains how this works, the thing that becomes clear is that the Holy Spirit does what he does in and through the life of the believer in the Church. So the “instrument” is the believer, the “medium or method” is the Church. This is the purifying force of the Holy Spirit in the believer through the Church to the world around us. In the O.T. that function was filled by God’s Prophets. They brought God’s message to Israel and the world, and Israel and the world had the choice to obey God’s Word or not. The world still has that choice today.
This purifying force is seen most clearly in its removal from the world in 2Thess.2:6-7. When the purifying power of the Holy Spirit at work in the life of the believer through the Church is removed, then the Anti-Christ will be revealed. The Believer in the Church acts as “salt and light” as Jesus said, both being purifying and revealing forces. It is this combination, Holy Spirit/Believer/Church that acts as a restrainer of sorts to the sin in the world around us. So as long as we are here, the world has a “conscience” of sorts because we keep standing up for the truth and saying things like, ‘that’s not right…” Apart from us doing that, the world is free to have no conscience at all. The world around us today offers ample evidence that the purifying power of the Church is waning. We have less and less influence every day.
Why is that? Seems to me that from a Biblical perspective, the biggest thing missing today compared to the Church of the first century is holiness and purity. We are all so much more interested in our liberties than in holiness to God. It may be too late for the Church to ever regain the influence it once had, but its never too late for you and I to have a greater influence on our world, but it will only come as we increase in holiness to God, giving up more and more of our so called liberties, which are not really liberties at all, only excuses to compromise.
3.) “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Believer” = In the O.T. we see frequent references to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. He instructed Israel in the wilderness (Neh.9:20), He is responsible for inspiring the writers of both Old and New Testaments, (2Sam23:2, Is.59:21, 2Peter 1:21, 2Tim.3:16 “lit.” God-breathed”) that last reference is most interesting because the Greek word for “spirit” is “pneuma” or “breath”. Here also is where we can make the distinction between the Holy Spirit’s work in the O.T. and the N.T. There are three different experiences with the Holy Spirit; “with”, “upon” and “in”. In the O.T. the Holy Spirit was “with” and came “upon” God’s people.
In Psalm 51:11 David prayed in repentance, “…do no take Your Holy Spirit from me…” Judges 6:34, “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon…” He came “upon” Jephthah in Judges 11:29. Or Samson in Judges 14:6 where the Spirit of the Lord “came upon him mightily…” Not to mention all the Prophets. But the work of the Spirit was one of temporarily coming down, then being gone again in the sense of what He did in that moment or particular event. In the N.T. this is quite different. In the N.T. and to the Believer specifically there are three different manifestations for four different purposes.
A.) “With” = John 14:16, the word “with” means to accompany. So the Holy Spirit will accompany the Believer wherever he or she goes. Note that it says “forever”, David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from him, and now Jesus says that He will not.
B.) “In” = John 14:17, now Jesus adds on “in” as well as “with”. The Greek word for “in” that is used here has the same meaning as “abide”. That is a settled and permanent place or position. This is the one fundamental difference between those of us who are Believers, followers of Jesus Christ, born again by His Spirit; we have the Holy Spirit within us, never to leave.
C.) “Upon” = Luke 24:49, “power from on high”, so like in the O.T. there is still this manifestation of the Spirit coming down from God “upon” His people. So the Holy Spirit is “with”, “in”, and “upon” those who are followers of Jesus.
This is quite handy; the Holy Spirit serves many different functions in the life of the Believer. Like assurance of our Salvation (Rom.8:16), giving us renewed physical life (Rom.8:11), He helps us to pray (Rom.8:26) amongst many others. But there are four specific functions I want to focus in on.
A.) “Illumination” = First is the work of the Holy Spirit in our salvation, 1Cor.12:3 says that we can’t even confess “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus said in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit would “convict the world of sin righteousness and of judgment”. So the Spirit is at work on us bringing us to Christ for salvation. Then as we are born again by His Spirit, (John 3:5) His indwelling presence now “illuminates” our understanding of God’s Word. (John 14:25-26, 16:13-15)
B.) “Accompaniment” = The Greek word used by Jesus in John 14:16 is “parakletos”, lit. “One called alongside to help”. As I mentioned before He will be with us forever and one of the big bonuses of having Him with us is His “guidance” We see Him function in that way many times through the book of Acts, like 13:4, 16:6-7, 20:28. This is barely even mentioning what it means to “live” by the Spirit. (Rom.8:1-17) But that does get me to my next point.
C.) “Empowering” = Acts 1:8, the definitive verse on the subject. Here is Jesus reminding His followers that although they have so much, there is one thing more they need, power to do what Jesus commands. When we look at the commands that Jesus gave us, they are either very cruel, or He has a different idea in mind. Cruel because we can’t do them! So Jesus says that He will empower us to do whatever He asks. Here in Acts 1:8 it is to be His “witnesses”, the Greek word is “martus” or “martyr” Here is the power not only to die for Jesus, but to live for Him! Now it is not us trying to do what Jesus wants us to do in our own strength, but it is His power, His Spirit doing it in us! I’m relieved! I’ve tried in my own power and discovered that I didn’t have any!
D.) “Equipping” = 1Cor.12:7, says that the Spirit gives to each of us who have been born again a “manifestation of the Spirit…for the profit of all.” Here a number of things come together. We have the Spirits work through the Word (2Tim.3:16-17), His empowering to be “witnesses” for Jesus (Acts 1:8), His accompanying Presence with us (John 14:16), but now His “gifting”. See 1Cor.12:1-11. The rest of chap.12 and then chap.14 goes on to explain the gifts and their proper exercise in the Church. Like 12:28-30, 14:1-5, 26-33. It’s hard to imagine how some Churches get so whacked out in these things when the directions are so clear.
Now this brings us back again to the “in” and “upon” work of the Spirit. In Acts 19:1-6 Paul found “disciples” in Ephesus, these were followers of Jesus, but lacked this one last thing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Let’s walk through a few scriptures; Acts 2:1-4 (Holy Spirit spontaneously comes down, disciples speak in hitherto unknown languages), Acts 8:14-20 (Simon the Sorcerer’s attempt to buy the Gift), Acts 10:44-47 (no hands, speaking in tongues, before baptism), and Acts 19:6 (hands, tongues and prophecy). Interesting side note is that in all the references to “tongues” in the N.T. all but one are defined as speaking another “earthly” language that someone did not know before. Only one reference to and “unknown tongue” is found in 1Cor. 14:21.
In each case it was simply God pouring out upon His people all that He has for them. There are good people who love Jesus who do not believe in this baptism of the Holy Spirit, or at least that it is not for believers of today, or some combination thereof. But when I look at what God’s Word says about the Holy Spirit I want everything that God has for me. And when I study the Person and work of the Holy Spirit I question why anyone would think that that power is only for then and not now. We have certainly not covered all that we could about the Holy Spirit, but it does come down to this; have you been born of His Spirit? Has the Holy Spirit been working on your heart today? Do you need forgiveness of your sins and a new start with Christ? Then surrender to the work of the spirit and confess that Jesus Christ is your Lord and savior.
Perhaps you have been born again, but you have not yet asked for this baptism with the Holy Spirit. You have the Spirit in you and with you, but you have not yet asked Him to come upon you and gift you with whatever He wants to gift you with. Remember we are not talking about “natural” gifting, but supernatural gifting. If you have not then today is your day! I don’t know what gift or gifts God will give you, but I know from His Word that He wants to. Jesus said “Ask and you shall receive”, James said “You have not because you ask not”, ask today for all the God has for you by His Holy Spirit.