Sunday, January 5, 2014
The Holy Spirit, Part 1
We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost, Acts 19:2
These words seem to comprise the modern mentality of a number of pseudo-Christian cults and sects that deny the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Who or what is the Holy Spirit? Is this a strictly New Testament doctrinal addition? Is He a person? An energy source? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, and in a believer’s life both as they are born into the household of God, and afterward? God allowing, we shall explore these questions and more as we contemplate the nature and reality of the Holy Spirit from Scripture.
A proper beginning of a study of the Holy Spirit must, I think, start with the Old Testament. Is the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, or is He a product of New Testament theology? If so, there is a radical discontinuity between the two. I apologize for the possible brevity of this piece; I know that other people have made a systematic defense of the Holy Spirit many times, and their work was very thorough, Scriptural, and inspired. My efforts here are not to build upon their works but extrapolate about my own personal findings from the Bible regarding the Holy Spirit.
As it happens, we find the Holy Spirit right at the beginning. “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters,” Genesis 1:2, NKJV. By the second verse of the first book in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is named, only here being called the Spirit of God; a title used numerous times throughout Scripture. What we can deduce simply from this verse is that God’s Spirit seems to be a separate individual from the aforementioned God in verse one. Here we find the Spirit “hovering.” The Hebrew word is “rachaph” and means “to brood, by implication, to be relaxed.” It is used in the KJV as “shake, move, or flutter.” God was about to begin the act of divine creation, and the Holy Spirit was waiting in readiness. We know that it was Christ who did the actual creating, Colossians 1:16. God the Father spoke, and the Word, the pre-incarnate Christ, was His instrumentality. The Holy Spirit is the communicator. We find a wealth of passages in the Old Testament (and the New) where it is the Spirit who decrees the words and intentions of God. Furthermore, we find that it is the Spirit who convicts and leads people to God, and who is our only means of communication and fellowship with God. More on this later.
The Spirit is represented in that part of man which is reborn when we have believed the gospel and trusted in Jesus Christ. The Spirit is He who is capable of communing with God; for only the Spirit of God knows the mind of God, 1st Corinthians 2:11-14. The Spirit is how men communicate with God and have fellowship with Him; and vice versa. Here we see something of what God meant when He said that man was created in God’s image in the beginning, Genesis 1:27. Man is comprised of three things: a body, soul, and spirit, 1st Thessalonians 5:23. One is visible, the other two invisible; so is the triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our bodies provide an effective means of interaction and communication with the world around us. Our souls provide the definition of who we truly are “beneath the skin.” It is the collective of our hopes, dreams, desires, personality, etc. The spirit is that place God created in each of us to be occupied with Himself. It is a home to which only God holds the key; a special domain where the Holy Spirit moves in and takes residence. Until then we have no spiritual life in us. In the Old Testament He did this to enable men for ministry of various types, but He could vacate as quickly as He came. When the new covenant in Christ’s blood was made His domain became permanent. Again, more on this later.
It is the born again spirit inside every Christian that makes us fit for Heaven. We have been, in the flesh, born after our fathers and as they died, so too is our destiny. But the Spirit is immortal and eternal, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit, John 3:6; Hebrews 9:14. That being said, when one is born again that spiritual nature is eternal, and determines where that individual will go when their physical body finally expires. If we have been born again Heaven is assured us. To those who have not been convicted and renewed by the Holy Spirit, the Lake of Fire will be our eternal domain. For just as the spirit is eternal, so too are our souls; it is a part of being made in God’s image. Though we had a moment when existence began for each one of us, we shall now endure forever, for we have been made in God’s image. Where we endure is our choice.
Let us proceed with a brief overview of the Holy Spirit’s mention and activity in the Old Testament. First examine Genesis 6:3. “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh.’” The Hebrew word for strive is “duwn” and means “to rule, by implication to judge (as umpire) also to strive (as at law).” Here we see something Jesus our Lord spoke of thousands of years later when He said “And when He has come (the Helper; the Holy Spirit) He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” John 16:8. His apostle Paul also wrote on this topic, saying “So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” Romans 8:8. Here, in this passage of Genesis, we see Paul’s depiction of mankind sliding along the downward spiral of Romans 1:20-32. The Spirit was striving with mankind, but they had gone astray and were not interested in listening. “Truly, this only have I found: That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes,” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
Moving ahead to Genesis 41:38 we find an interesting reference to monotheism still alive in ancient Egypt. Pharaoh said of Joseph: “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” Here we find the Holy Spirit coming upon Joseph and making him capable of ministry; in this case giving Pharaoh a good understanding of the prophetic dreams he had been having and reminding the king of Egypt that Yahweh was still the true and only God. Note Joseph’s own admission prior to this statement: “It is not in me (to interpret your dreams); God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace,” Genesis 41:16. Paul writes “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells,” Romans 7:18. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit that gives our prayers power and makes them acceptable before God, Romans 8:26-27. Joseph knew that it was God’s power at work in him that would provide an answer for Pharaoh; likewise God would be recognized and receive the glory for an act only He could have performed. This was accomplished through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
What was witnessed perhaps in passing with Joseph is touched upon more thoroughly in Exodus. In Exodus 31:3 we read: “I have filled him (Bezazel, son of Uri) with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” We read no less than 8 times in the book of Acts that the disciples are “filled with the Holy Spirit” at various times; yet they only “receive” Him once. There is a profound difference, which we shall touch on later. For the moment it is clear that being filled with the Holy Spirit is certainly an Old Testament doctrine; one which we shall see again and again. In this case Bezazel was empowered to perform the ministry of creating the tabernacle to specification. Filling seems to imply then that men or women are filled with the Spirit for a certain task. This idea is reiterated in Exodus 35:31, as God reminds us that He filled Bezazel with His Spirit for the purpose of serving Him. What can we conclude initially? One, that the Holy Spirit certainly existed in Old Testament doctrine in much the same capacity as He does in the New Testament. Two, that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a precursor; not to grandstanding with flamboyant gifts, but a call to active service for the Lord. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts,” Zechariah 4:6.