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The Holy Spirit

Person or Impersonal Force?

Acts 10:19  While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you.

Acts 13:2  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

Hebrews 10:15  The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

Matthew 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

How can we determine whether the Holy Spirit is a person or simply a force? Notice here that the Bible portrays the Holy Spirit as a person speaking. Notice also in Matthew 28:19 that the Holy Spirit is placed within a category of persons, namely the Father and the Son. He is as distinct from the Father as the Son is distinct from the Father. And yet also concerning these three notice that the word "name" is singular. For these are three and yet one. (See also Understanding the Trinity,  and the Diety of Christ)

His Role in Regeneration and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

John 3:5,6  Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Acts 1:5  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:5  he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

It is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that one is born of God. The nature of this rebirth is not simply an adoption into a family, which alludes to simply a positional change, but rather an innate change within the individual which changes a person's character unto love of the brethren, submission, holiness, and perseverance to the end. (1John 3:9,10)

His Universal Innateness within Believers

John 7:38,39  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Romans 8:9  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

John 14:16,17 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Acts 2:38  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

If a person does not have the Holy Spirit then such a person does not belong to Christ, not having been born of God. And if the Holy Spirit does live in the person, then it will inevitably have an impact on a person's sinfulness. Therefore there are common universal experiences among those in the Christian community who have been born of God as a result of all having the Spirit.

However this universal innateness of the Spirit was not imparted until Acts chapter 2 when the Spirit was sent. During Jesus' earthly ministry none of the apostles or disciples - nor Mary - had the Holy Spirit in the sense he would be given to Christians after Acts 2.

His Role in Pronouncing Word of God

John 3:34  For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

Acts 1:16  the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas,

As was noted from the verses in the first section, the Holy Spirit speaks the words of the Bible. Thus in evaluating ideas such can be compared with what the Bible says. For what the Bible says, the Spirit says. (See discerning the Holy Spirit below)

His Role in Revelation of Truth and the Application of the Word of God

John 14:26 the Counselor, 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 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

Ephesians 6:17  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

1Corinthians 2:
9  However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of GodWe have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.  The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

The Holy Spirit deals primarily in the realm of ideas. He teaches and instructs in accordance to what is true. When he speaks, it becomes the Word of God. But in particular the Spirit teaches primarily through the Word of God - that is, through what he already said. The Spirit guides us into the right applications of the Bible. Also concerning Eph 6:17, the Bible is not our sword, rather it is the sword of the Spirit. The Spirit uses it offensively both in our lives and in the lives of those to whom we bring it. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

The Spirit helps us to understand the Bible. But as 1Cor 2 says, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." But first of all there's a sort of catch-22 here. For a person cannot receive the Spirit until he believes (Acts 2:38; Eph 1:13) But to believe he must understand the gospel. But to understand he must have the Spirit. Thus some have proposed that a person is born of God even before they believe. However the Bible teaches that that is not the order of things (Eph 1:13; John 1:12)

In the 1Cor 2 passage Paul is actually not alluding to the gospel, rather he says in verse 6 "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature." Paul is referring to advance spiritual truths, the deep things of God. But wouldn't the same principle apply with respect to evangelism? He notes in the previous chapter 1 Corinthians 1:18  "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." I would infer that there are those who don't have the Spirit in the sense that those born of God do, but whom nonetheless the Spirit leads to Christ in the sense of bringing them to an understanding of the gospel. One may picture the Spirit coming along side rather than into them. However if you were to try to teach those same people advance spiritual truths, they would reckon them foolishness.

His Role in Evangelism

John 15:26,27 When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16:8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:

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.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

You're never alone in evangelism. Even if you're the only Christian a convert had contact with you could not genuinely say that you led such a person to Christ. The Holy Spirit is involved in this. In fact at times the Spirit doesn't even need much of our assistance. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. But how does he do that? He does it primarily through the Word of God, which is his sword. So when you share what the Bible says, you are releasing the Holy Spirit to operate on those who listen. Even a bumper-sticker with the Word of God can have its impact. Evangelism occurs when both the Spirit and the bride, those born of God, invites others to take the free gift of the water of life.

His Role in Guidance through Particular Circumstances

Acts 20:23  I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
The Spirit is especially involved in guiding those involved in ministry in accordance with the will of God. Such guidance may be derived or inferred from the Bible or through experience. But notice that at times as in this case it may not simply involved information about what to do and where to go. Rather in this case it's preparing Paul  for what is to come by giving him a degree of foresight. Of course he could have merely derived this from Jesus own teachings about what kind of treatment disciples should expect - which is now in the Word of God.

His Role in Sanctification (dealing with sinfulness)

Romans 8:11  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Romans 8:14  because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Context is referring to being led away from a sinful lifestyle into a holy lifestyle)

Galatians 5:
16  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
17  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
19  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
20  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
21  and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
24  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
25  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
26  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other

1John 3:9,10 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

If a person has the Holy Spirit then it is inevitable that there will be characteristics of their character and lifestyle consistent with being a child of God because of the Spirit (and his sword's) working in the person.

His Role in Sealing Our Salvation

2 Corinthians 1:22  set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5  Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13,14  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 4:30  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

The Spirit affirms that all born of God have eternal security. But this is not to say that such people can freely sin. For the Spirit also inevitably influences their behavior. And such people will endure in faith till the end. However this is also not to say that such people might not grieve the Holy Spirit from time to time despite being sealed for the day of redemption.

His Role in Assuring our Salvation Status

Romans 8:16  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

1 John 3:24  Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

1 John 4:13  We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 Peter 1:2  who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

The Holy Spirit gives not only eternal security, but also assurance of salvation to those born of God. By assurance of salvation I simply mean a feeling of assurance that one has been saved.

His Role Helping Us to Pray

Romans 8:26  In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express
Pray can seem incomprehensible and overwhelming at times. But those born of God the Spirit will intercede for us and as we get intuned to the Spirit we learn to pray.

Discerning the Holy Spirit

1 John 4:1-3 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

1 John 4:6  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

The Bible instructs us to not gullibly accept ideas people teach but to judge and discern their origin. Some Christians will claim to be speaking from the Spirit when they present their ideas. Others will simply make statements without reference to the Bible. In any case ideas have to be evaluated. The Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, is the primary tool for evaluating such claims. Those who don't listen to the Bible are not of God.

The Unforgiveable Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Matthew 12:32  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
As the Spirit is the one who opens one's understanding and leads one to Christ, identifying the Holy Spirit as an evil spirit is the ultimate rejection of such guidance. Such people do not repent for they reject the Holy Spirit leading them into repentance.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

1Corinthians 12:
1  Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
2  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
8  To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
9  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,
10  to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
11  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
12  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.
13  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
28  And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
29  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
30  Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
31  But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.
Those born of God have been blessed with a diversity of spiritual gifts for the common good. Gifts are given not in accordance with the will of the church nor the will of the individual, but rather in accordance with the will of the Spirit.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

The receiving of the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the baptism "en" the Holy Spirit. But first with regards to the conjuction. The six times it which it does use a conjunction, in every case the Greek conjuction "en" is used. Most literally this means "in". Thus Jesus said,  "I indeed baptized you in <1722> water, but He will baptize you in <1722> the Holy Spirit." Mark 1:8 <1722>  is the strong's number associate with the actual Greek word. The lexicon indicates this word is translated in the KJV as "in" 1902 times out of 2801 times. And indeed the word "in" is most appropriate as it enhances the meaning as in the case of Mark 1:8 where he is contrasting being baptized in different things - water and the Holy Spirit.

Now as for being baptized in the Holy Spirit, this term is only mentioned once in the New Testament letters to the churches, namely 1Cor 12:13  "For in <1722> one Spirit we were all baptized into one body——whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free——and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." Now while one might infer doctrine from the book of Acts which tells of historical events, the letters to the churches teach us doctrine explicitly, and as such should first be consulted with regards to matters of doctrine. What it teaches here is that all the saints have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. In fact much of the purpose of the letter to the Corinthians was to dispel any notions advocating schisms and elitist divisions among the Christian community (Such as is the case today with regards to the elitist Charismatic view of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit) Likewise Paul makes sure to note that not all have the same giftedness. Contrary to many Charismatics today, Paul teaches that it is most appropriate that all do not speak in tongues, despite the fact that all have been baptized by one Spirit into one body. "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" 1Cor 12:30 Yet today Charismatics have taken just the opposite view as scripture teaches and have develop a schizm in the body such as now they view there being two bodies - one having been baptized in the Holy Spirit and those Christians who have not. They are the very kind of Corinthian Christian Paul is trying to correct. If this doctrine of theirs is significant, if Christians are missing out on something important, than why is it not found in any of the New Testament letters to the churches but for one place, and that one place teaches it's universal among the body of Christ, contrary to the teaches of Charismatism? This reminds me much of the Mariology of Catholicsm whereby Catholics make a big deal about Mary while she is not even mentioned in any of the letters to the churches.

But getting on to what the scripture actually teaches concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as I said it equates the baptism with the receiving of the Holy Spirit. This is why it's universal. Because everyone born of God has received the Holy Spirit. "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, he does not yet belong to Christ. Concerning Acts chapter 2 Peter says, ""Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38 He doesn't say you might receive the Holy Spirit. He does say pray that you receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is automatically given to all believers. That's what he says.

The apostles themselves hadn't received the Holy Spirit until Acts 2. It says in John 7:39 "Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." So when was the Holy Spirit given? Peter says in Acts 2 "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear." So upon his ascension, upon his being exalted to the right hand of God, Jesus received from the Father the right to give out the Holy Spirit. And in Acts 2 the apostles received the Spirit. Now there are those who will point out John 20:22 in which Jesus breathed on them and commanded them to receive the Holy Spirit. But that was simply symbolic, predictive of what was to come, much as the last supper was symbolic and predictive of what was to come. In fact what the Holy Spirit came in Acts 2 it came as a wind and as tongues of fire. That's when they actually received the Holy Spirit.

Likewise there are those who will point out Acts 8 concerning the Samaritans. But it says, "When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 8:15,16 But this is contrary to the Charismatic teaching of there being a difference between receiving the Holy Spirit and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Rather the Samaritans hadn't yet received the Holy Spirit. Now they had been promised the Holy Spirit, and Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. (Mt 16:19) In Acts 2 he opened the gates of the kingdom to the Jews. In Acts 8 to the Samaritans, and then in Acts 10 to the Gentiles. This is why up to Acts chapter 10 the receiving of the Holy Spirit was contingent upon Peter's presence. But after that, the gates having been opened to all categories of people, the keys were no longer needed and thus since that point a person receives the Holy Spirit upon believing in Christ. That's why we don't find the Charismatic view in the New Testament letters to the churches. They falsely infer their doctrine from the book of Acts.

But let's consider the case of Cornelius - the first Gentile Christian. Peter preached the gospel to him in Acts 10, "while Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message." Acts 10:44 Notice they received the Holy Spirit despite the fact they had not been baptized, nor did anyone lay hands on them, which are often additional requirements advocated by the who misconceive what the Bible teaches. And the others with him said,."Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" Acts 10:47 They refer to this as receiving the Holy Spirit.

Now in describing this event to the church at Jerusalem Peter told what the angel said to Cornelius, namely, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." Acts 11:13,14 Cornelius and his household were not saved until they heard and believed the gospel, despite the fact he was apparently a god-fearing generous man. Such is the case today. People need to hear and believe the gospel to be saved. Now concerning the Holy Spirit coming on them Peter said, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 11:14,15 Thus Peter is saying that what Cornelius and his household experience was the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Notice, contrary to Charismatism, Peter makes no distinction between receiving the Holy Spirit and being baptized in the Holy Spirit. These are the same.

Everywhere in the New Testament letters to the churches it is assumed that the saints have received the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer, you have received the Holy Spirit. Don't be misled by Charismatic dogma.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources